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edited and translated by 


New York 

Published simultaneously by Lawrence & Wishart, London, and 
International Publishers, New York 

© Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith, 1971 

First edition, igji 
11th Printing, 1932 

ISBN 0-7178-0397-X (Paperback) 
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 73-77646 

Manufactured in the United States of America 





Introduction 3 

The Formation of the Intellectuals 5 
The Different Position of Urban and Rural-Type 

Intellectuals 14 


Introduction 24 

The Organisation of Education and Culture 26 

In Search of the Educational Principle 33 


Introduction 44 
History of the Subaltern Classes: Methodological 

Criteria 52 
The Problem of Political Leadership in the Forma- 
tion and Development of the Nation and the 

Modern State in Italy 55 

The City-Countryside Relationship go 

The Moderates and the Intellectuals 102 

The Function of Piedmont 104 

The Concept of Passive Revolution 106 

First Epilogue 114 

Material for a Critical Essay on Croce's Two Histories 114 

The History of Europe seen as "Passive Revolution" 118 



Introduction 123 

Brief Notes on Machiavelli's Politics 1 25 

Machiavelli and Marx 133 

Politics as an Autonomous Science 1 36 

Elements of Politics 144 

The Political Party 147 

Conceptions of the World and Practical Stances 157 



Some Theoretical and Practical Aspects of Econc- 

mism 1 58 

Prediction and Perspective 169 

Economic-Corporate Phase of the State 1 73 

Analysis of Situations. Relations of Force 175 

On Bureaucracy 185 

The Theorem of Fixed Proportions 190 

Number and Quality in Representative Systems of 

Government 19 2 

Continuity and Tradition 193 

Spontaneity and Conscious Leadership 196 

Against Byzantinism 200 

The Collective Worker 201 

Voluntarism and Social Masses 202 


Introduction 206 

Political Parties in Periods of Organic Crisis 210 

Caesarism 219 

The Fable of the Beaver 223 

Agitation and Propaganda 227 

The "Philosophy of the Epoch" 228 

Political Struggle and Military War 229 
The Transition from the War of Manoeuvre (Frontal 

Attack) to the War of Position 238 

Politics and Military Science 239 

Internationalism and National Policy 240 

Problem of the "Collective Man" or of "Social 

Conformism" 242 

Sociology and Political Science 243 
Hegemony (Civil Society) and Separation of Powers 245 

The Conception of Law 246 

Politics and Constitutional Law 247 

Parliament and the State 253 

Self-criticism and the Hypocrisy of Self-criticism 254 

The State 257 

Organisation of National Societies 264 

Who is a Legislator? 265 

Religion, State, Party 266 

State and Parties 267 

Statolatry 268 

"Merits" of the Ruling Classes 269 


Historical Belles-Lettres 270 

"Subversive" 272 

"Wave of Materialism" and "Crisis of Authority" 275 


Introduction 277 

Americanism and Fordism 279 
Rationalisation of the Demographic Composition of 

Europe 280 

Super-City and Super-Country 287 

Financial Autarky of Industry 289 

Some Aspects of the Sexual Question 294 

Feminism and "Masculinism" 297 

"Animality" and Industrialism 298 

Rationalisation of Production and Work 301 

Taylor and Americanism 306 

Quantity and Quality 307 

Taylorism and the Mechanisation of the Worker 308 

High Wages 310 

Shares, Debentures and Government Bonds 313 

American and European Civilisation 316 



Irtroduction 321 

Some Preliminary Points of Reference 323 

Problems of Philosophy and History 34.3 


Introduction 378 
Some Problems in the Study of the Philosophy of 

Praxis 381 
Critical Notes on an Attempt at Popular Sociology 419 




The editors would like to express their thanks to the Istituto 
Gramsci in. Rome, holders of the copyright on Gramsci's Prison 
Notebooks, for permission to publish the present selection and for 
allowing them to consult and to copy from the photostat of Gramsci's 
manuscript in the possession of the Institute. Particular thanks for 
their assistance are due to Dr Elsa Fubini and Prof. Valentino 
Gerratana of the staff of the Institute, and to the director, Franco 
Ferri. The initiative for the publication of this volume came from 
Roger Simon and Steve Bodington, who have supervised its progress 
throughout, making many invaluable suggestions, and without 
whose stimulus the work would have taken even longer to complete. 

We would like to acknowledge our indebtedness to certain books 
without which the General Introduction could not have been 
written. The most important of these sources is the series of books 
on Turin working-class history and the early history of the Italian 
Communist Party by Paolo Spriano. Also indispensable were 
Giuseppe Fiori's biography, the Tasca archive material published 
in the Annali Feltrinelli in 1 960 and 1 966, and the Marx Memorial 
Library's collection of Comintern congress reports, etc. 

Geoffrey Nowell Smith would like to thank all those who helped 
or took part in the preparation of his sections of this edition, in 
particular Rosalind Delmar, a constant collaborator on the volume 
from its inception; John Merrington, Ian Steedman, Norman Geras 
and Michael Evans; and Shirley Hill, who produced a flawless 
typescript of his part of the translation. 



The present edition comprises a selection of texts from the Notebooks 
(Quaderni del car cere) written by Gramsci in prison between 1929 and 
1935. There is still no critical edition of the Quaderni in Italian, 
though one is in course of preparation at the Istituto Gramsci in 
Rome. A preliminary edition containing the bulk of Gramsci's 
original material, excepting translations and rejected drafts, was 
brought out by the Turin publisher Einaudi in six volumes between 
1948 and 1 95 1, under the editorship of Felice Platone. The same 
edition contains a volume of Prison Letters {Lettere dal carcere, 1947), 
now superseded by a more complete edition, and a series of volumes 
of the pre- 1 926 writings, from the period prior to Gramsci's 
imprisonment. Our selection is based on this Einaudi edition of the 
Quaderni, with the addition of one or two previously unpublished 
texts and with a slight rearrangement of the order in certain places. 
References to the Einaudi or to other selections or translations of 
Gramsci's works are given in these pages as follows: 


MS. II materialismo storico e la Jilosojia di Benedetto Croce, 1948. 

Int. Gli intellettuali e V organizzazione della cultura, 1949. 

Ris. II Risorgimento, 1 949. 

NM. Mote sul Machiavelli, sulla politica e sullo Stato moderno, 

LVN. Letteratura e vita nazionale, 1950. 

PP. Passato e presente, 1 95 1 . 


LC. Lettere dal carcere, edited by S. Caprioglio and E. Fubini 

Nuovo Universale Einaudi, Turin 1965. 

Other editions referred to 

GF. 2000 pagine di Gramsci, edited by N. Gallo and G. 

Ferrata, Vol. I, "Nel tempo della lotta, 1914-1926", 
II Saggiatore, Milan 1964. On pp. 797-819 of this 
volume is published Gramsci's important essay on the 
Southern Question (written immediately prior to his 
arrest) : Alcuni temi della quistione meridionale, hereafter 
referred to as "Alcuni temi". 
(Vol. II consists of letters. Two further volumes are in 



OC. Oeuvres choisies de Antonio Gramsci, Editions Sociales, 

Paris, 1959. 

A previous English translation of some of the works of Gramsci 
contained in this volume, together with one or two of the earlier 
writings, translated and edited by Louis Marks, was published by 
Lawrence and Wishart in 1957, under the title The Modern Prince 
and other Essays. There also exist a number of Italian anthologies 
and of translations of Gramsci's works into other languages. For a 
selective bibliography of works of and about Gramsci we refer the 
reader to the note at the end of the English translation of Giuseppe 
Fiori's biography of Gramsci [Antonio Gramsci, Life of a Revolutionary, 
translated by Tom Nairn, New Left Books, London 1970). 

gramsci's prison notebooks 

The problem of making a selection from Gramsci's Quaderni or 
Prison Notebooks is complicated by two factors: the fragmentary 
character of the writings themselves, and the uncertain status of the 
Notebooks in Gramsci's intentions. From references in the Note- 
books and in Gramsci's letters from prison it is possible to obtain 
some indication of how Gramsci intended his work to be understood. 
Soon after his arrest he wrote to his sister-in-law Tatiana (19 March 
1927: LC. pp. 57-60) about a project of writing something "fur 
ewig" (for ever), something which would also serve to absorb him 
and "give a focus to [his] inner life". He mentions a plan for a 
history of the Italian intellectuals, together with studies on lin- 
guistics, on the theatre of Pirandello and on serial novels and 
popular literary taste. However, in another letter to Tatiana 
(15 December 1930: LC. pp. 389-92) he writes: "thinking 'dis- 
interestedly' or study for its own sake are difficult for me ... I do 
not like throwing stones in the dark; I like to have a concrete 
interlocutor or adversary", and he speaks of the "polemical nature" 
of his entire intellectual formation. Early in 1932, in a note in one 
of his Quaderni (Q,.XXVIII), he describes a programme of "principal 
essays" wider in scope than the previous one, with more political 
and philosophical content, fairly close in its general outlines to 
what has actually come down to us in the Quaderni. It is this 
programme which forms the basis of the ordering of the material 
of the Notebooks carried out by the Einaudi editors after the war. 
Even so, many difficulties remain. Ill health and the unavailability 
of books in the prison forced him to leave unfinished, to abandon 



or to modify certain plans. With his transfer to the prison clinic 
in 1933 and consequent partial recovery, he began to recopy, 
reorder and rework much of the material from the earlier notebooks. 
But he did so with an extra caution, eliminating any surviving 
words or phrases, like the name of Marx or the word "class", 
which might attract the attention of the censor and so cause his 
work to be brought to an end. Most significantly of all, in a note 
in one of the Quaderni entitled "Questions of Method" (see below 
pp. 382-86) he offers a warning, ostensibly about Marx but 
equally if not more applicable to himself, against confusing un- 
finished or unpublished work with works published and approved 
by an author during his lifetime. In the same note he also refers 
to the importance and to the inherent difficulties of reconstructing 
the "intellectual biography" of an author. To perform such a task, 
in relation to the Prison Notebooks, would be an immensely 
valuable but also intricate labour. In default of this, however, and 
given the circumstances in which the texts were written, any 
unequivocal assertions about the aim and status of Gramsci's 
theoretical project as contained or sketched out in the Notebooks 
are necessarily speculative and must be recognised as such. 


While the above observations can be construed most simply as a 
warning against taking as definitive or as having an unambiguous 
intention texts whose form is often provisional and whose intention 
is in some way veiled or uncertain, the problem of the fragmentary 
character of Gramsci's original manuscript poses more immediate 
problems. Gramsci's prison Quaderni number thirty-three in all, 
several of them containing notes on a number of different subjects 
or written over a period of a couple of years. Many of the notes are 
isolated jottings. Others are so placed in the Quaderno as to make 
their insertion into the main structure of Gramsci's arguments at 
best hypothetical. Longer texts, about whose coherence and general 
order there can be no doubt, are often partially revised in such a 
way that it is necessary, in editing the text, to intersperse the 
revised or rewritten sections with passages of which only an earlier 
draft exists. Both in the classification of the notes according to 
subject and in the ordering of particular items, we have, broadly 
speaking, followed the lines laid down in the Einaudi edition, 
which also provides the basis of the text used for the translation. 
At the same time we have not hesitated, in the interests of clarity 



of presentation, to depart from the Einaudi order wherever this 
seemed to us justified on philological grounds, by reference to the 
original Quaderni. We have also, where relevant (e.g. in the political 
sections), appended in square brackets the date of the Quaderno 
from which a text is taken. The texts that we have used are as 

The essays on the Intellectuals and on Education belong together 
in Gramsci's original manuscript {Quaderno XXIX, ff. 1-12). We 
have translated the texts as they appear in the Einaudi volume 
Gli intellettuali on pp. 3-19, 97-103 and 106-14. 

The sections on Italian History and on Politics have necessitated 
the most reordering, both in relation to the Einaudi edition and 
to the original Quaderni. The "Notes on Italian History" in this 
edition come mainly from the Einaudi volume 77 Risorgimento. One 
passage, "Material for a Critical Essay on Croce's Two Histories", 
is previously unpublished, and we have also integrated into the text 
one passage from each of the Einaudi volumes II materialismo 
storico, Note sul Machiavelli and Passato e presente. 

The "Notes on Politics" were all included, with the exception of 
one previously unpublished text — "Self-criticism and the Hypocrisy 
of Self-criticism" — in the Einaudi volumes Note sul Machiavelli and 
Passato e presente. Within the political sections however our ordering, 
in terms of a rough division into two parts, on the Party and on 
the State, is original. The Einaudi order here is not satisfactory, 
but it is equally impossible to follow the Quaderni. The principal 
source for the notes is a late Quaderno (XXX, datable to 1933-34) 
in which a number of earlier texts are rewritten in a more polished 
form but in an order which has no particular internal coherence. 
Drafts of some of the same texts, together with notes on related 
topics, are to be found in a number of other Quaderni, written 
between ig2g and 1933. Short of a literal reproduction of all these 
texts, or a massive critical apparatus, out of place in an edition of 
this size and scope, there is clearly no alternative to a reordering 
of some kind, aimed at presenting to the reader a selection of texts 
which is as reasonably comprehensive and coherent as possible, 
while making it clear, through the dates appended at the end of 
each passage, roughly where each stands in terms of Gramsci's 
original project. 

The essay "Americanism and Fordism" derives from a single 
Quaderno, number V, and is translated here as it appears, slightly 
reordered, in the Note sul Machiavelli. 

The philosophical texts have been translated, with one or two 



minor changes, as they appear in the Einaudi volume II materialismo 
storico. The essays "Some Preliminary Points of Reference" and 
"Critical Notes on an Attempt at Popular Sociology" are fairly 
complete in the original Quaderni. Those entitled "Problems of 
Philosophy and History" and "Some Problems in the Study of the 
Philosophy of Praxis" are the result of some reordering by the 
Einaudi editors. 

In translating our aim has been to combine the demands of a 
readable English style with a respect not only for the precise content 
but also for the flavour of an original which, in its fragmentary and 
elliptical character and its frequent recourse to tricks to deceive the 
prison censor, bears distinct traces of the difficult circumstances 
under which it was written. Names of well-known Marxists and 
Communists are almost always given in the Quaderni in the form of 
a substitute or a circumlocution. Thus Marx is referred to as "the 
founder of the philosophy of praxis", Lenin as "Ilich" or "Vilich" 
[V. Ilich], Trotsky as "Leon Davidovitch" or "Bronstein" and so 
on. Similarly certain identifiable concepts of Marxism Leninism 
such as the class struggle or the dictatorship of the proletariat are 
usually masked under innocuous sounding titles. All such names or 
phrases have been left in the original form used by Gramsci, but 
explained either by square brackets in the text or by a footnote. In 
the case of concepts this has been done not merely in order to 
preserve the feel of the original text but also to avoid imposing too 
simplistic an interpretation on phrases which often have a con- 
ceptual value of their own. Thus "philosophy of praxis" is both a 
euphemism for Marxism and an autonomous term used by Gramsci 
to define what he saw to be a central characteristic of the philosophy 
of Marxism, the inseparable link it establishes between theory and 
practice, thought and action. 


Questions of censorship apart, Gramsci's terminology presents a 
number of difficulties to the translator. Wherever possible we have 
tried to render each term of Gramsci's with a single equivalent, as 
close as possible to the original. In one particular set of cases this 
has proved impossible, and that is with the group of words centred 
around the verb dirigere (dirigente, direllivo, direzione, etc.). Here we 
have in part followed the normal English usage dictated by the 
context (e.g. direzione — leadership ; classe dirigente = ruling class) 
but in certain cases we have translated dirigente and direttivo as 



"directive" in order to preserve what for Gramsci is a crucial 
conceptual distinction, between power based on "domination" and 
the exercise of "direction" or "hegemony". In this context it is also 
worth noting that the term "hegemony" in Gramsci itself has two 
faces. On the one hand it is contrasted with "domination" (and as 
such bound up with the opposition State/Civil Society) and on the 
other hand "hegemonic" is sometimes used as an opposite of 
"corporate" or "economic-corporate" to designate an historical 
phase in which a given group moves beyond a position of corporate 
existence and defence of its economic position and aspires to a 
position of leadership in the political and social arena. Non- 
hegemonic groups or classes are also called by Gramsci "sub- 
ordinate", "subaltern" or sometimes "instrumental". Here again 
we have preserved Gramsci's original terminology despite the 
strangeness that some of these words have in English and despite 
the fact that it is difficult to discern any systematic difference in 
Gramsci's usage between, for instance, subaltern and subordinate. 
The Hegelian sense of the word "momento", meaning an aspect 
of a situation in its concrete (not necessarily temporal) manifesta- 
tions, has generally been rendered as "moment" but sometimes as 
"aspect". Despite Marx's strictures (in The German Ideology) on the 
abuse of this word, it occurs frequently in Gramsci in both its 
senses, and confusion is made worse by the fact that Italian, unlike 
German, does not distinguish the two senses of the word according 
to gender. In particular cases where there seemed to us any difficulty 
with a word or concept we have referred the reader to a footnote, as 
also with any passage where the translation is at all uncertain. In 
general we have preferred to footnote too much rather than too 
little, on the assumption that readers familiar with, say, the history 
of the Third International might nevertheless find useful some 
explanation, however elementary, of the specialised vocabulary of 
Kantian philosophy, while philosophers who know their Hegel and 
Marx might be less at home in the history of the Italian Risorgi- 

The translation and notes for the essays on Education and for 
the writings on the Risorgimento and on politics are by Quintin 
Hoare; those for the essay on the Intellectuals, for "Americanism 
and Fordism" and for the philosophical sections are by Geoffrey 
Nowell Smith. With the exception of the section on Gramsci's 
intellectual background, the General Introduction is by Quintin 




Explanatory notes by the English editors and translators have been 
indicated on each page by superior numerals, Gramsci's own notes, 
as contained in the originals, by asterisks. 

We have preferred, for ease of reference, to place all the notes 
on the pages to which they refer rather than place editors' notes 
at the end of each section or at the end of the book — although this 
means that occasionally an editorial note has had to be added 
below one of the author's notes. 


By the autumn of 1926, the world's first fascist regime had been 
in power for four years in Italy. Its character was still very much 
a matter of dispute, not least within the Italian Communist Party 
and the Third International. Was it a specific, national pheno- 
menon or the precursor of an international trend ? Was it a novel 
socio-political formation or one that was basically just the Italian 
equivalent of other, more traditional forms of reaction — such as 
the Russian Black Hundreds after 1905 or the anti-labour repression 
which ravaged American socialism in the early years of this century 
or the Freikorps which underpinned the social-democratic govern- 
ment of Noske and Scheidemann in Germany after 19 18? Did its 
essence lie in its social base in the urban petty bourgeoisie and the 
rural bourgeoisie, or in its role as the new, more brutal instrument 
of big capital's dominion ? 

These uncertainties about how fascism should be defined were 
accompanied by equal uncertainty about its stability and historical 
prospects. It was still widely believed by communist leaders that 
the ruling class might decide that the fascist option was too costly, 
and switch to a social-democratic alternative. The notion that 
social-democracy was the "left wing of the bourgeoisie" had been 
generally accepted, for example, by Italian communists since 
Zinoviev first put it forward in 1922 (by 1924 this had become "the 
left wing of fascism"). Moreover, it was true that the fascists had 
not entirely suppressed bourgeois political institutions; indeed, even 
communist members still sat in the fascist-dominated parliament. 
And during the crisis which had followed the fascist assassination 
of the social-democrat deputy Matteotti in June 1924, the regime 
had genuinely appeared to totter and its backers to hesitate. But in 
fact fascist power already had immensely strong foundations. It 
had inaugurated a system of repression incomparably more 
thoroughgoing and efficient than any previous form of reaction. By 
the end of 1925 it was quite clear that any idea of the regime split- 
ting in the foreseeable future under the force of its own internal 
contradictions was an illusion. Throughout 1926 Mussolini had 
been effectively playing at cat and mouse with the opposition 
parties — at least at the legal level. 

Finally, in the autumn of 1926, on the pretext of an alleged 
attempt on his life, Mussolini decided to make an end of even the 
semblance of bourgeois democracy that still survived. All remaining 



opposition organisations and their publications were banned, and 
a new, massive series of arrests was launched throughout the 
country. Among those arrested was Antonio Gramsci. Gramsci 
was a member of parliament — but the regime was no longer 
interested in niceties about parliamentary immunity. He had also, 
since August 1924, been the general secretary of the Communist 
Party — though of course under such political conditions the 
identity of party officials was kept secret. He was 35 years old. At 
his trial in 1928, the official prosecutor ended his peroration with 
the famous demand to the judge: "We must stop this brain working 
for twenty years!" But, although Gramsci was to be dead long 
before those twenty years were up, released, his health broken, only 
in time to die under guard in a clinic rather than in prison, yet 
for as long as his physique held out his jailers did not succeed in 
stopping his brain from working. The product of those years of 
slow death in prison were the 2,848 pages of handwritten notes 
which he left to be smuggled out of the clinic and out of Italy 
after his death, and of which this volume is a selection. 

Our introduction will make no attempt to offer a general inter- 
pretation of Gramsci's Prison Notebooks, but will concentrate rather 
on giving a brief outline of the political and intellectual experience 
which formed, inevitably, the background to and the point of 
departure for Gramsci's writing during his imprisonment. 

Early Life 

Antonio Gramsci was born in 1891, in the small town of Ales in 
Sardinia. His father came originally from Naples and had been 
intended to be a lawyer. But the death of his own father, a colonel 
in the Carabinieri, meant that he had to abandon his studies; he 
found a job as registrar in the small Sardinian town of Ghilarza. 
There he met Gramsci's mother, who was the daughter of a local 
inspector of taxes and had the rare attainment, in an area of 
90 per cent illiteracy, of being able to read and write. Any ambi- 
tions the couple might have had for their children were rudely 
dashed, however, in 1897 when the father was suspended from his 
job, without pay, on suspicion of peculation. The following year 
he was put under arrest and in 1900 he was sentenced to nearly 
six years imprisonment. To what extent he was guilty of the 
charges, which were undoubtedly motivated by his opposition to 
the political party in power locally, is not very important; corrup- 
tion is anyway endemic in that type of society. The essential fact 
is that from 1 898 to 1 904, when her husband wasreleased fromprison 


and found a new — albeit inferior — job, Gramsci's mother was 
forced to bring up her seven children, alone, with no source of 
income other than her meagre earnings as a seamstress and the 
proceeds from the sale of a small plot of land, in conditions of dire 

Antonio's health was an added problem. He had a malformation 
of the spine, which the doctors attempted to cure by having him 
suspended for long periods from a beam on the ceiling, and when 
he grew up he became hunch-backed and was barely five feet tall. 
He also suffered from internal disorders which brought him close 
to death as a small child, and which were to recur throughout his 
adult life, accompanied by severe nervous complications, and to 
culminate in his death at the age of 46. 

In 1898 Antonio started school at Ghilarza, but his education 
was interrupted for a couple of years at the end of his elementary 
schooling since none of his brothers was earning and he had to go 
out to work. His father's release enabled him to return to school, 
in the neighbouring town of Santulussurgiu. It was an appallingly 
bad school, but nevertheless, by dint of application and the help 
afforded by his literate home background, he managed in 1908 
to pass the examination to enter the senior liceo in Cagliari. 

When in Cagliari he lodged with his elder brother Gennaro, now 
a white-collar worker and recently returned from military service 
in Turin. Gennaro, whose experience on the mainland had turned 
him into a socialist militant, helped to introduce Antonio to 
politics, and from 1906 used to send socialist pamphlets back to his 
younger brother at home. An equally formative influence was pro- 
vided by the wave of social protest that swept Sardinia in the same 
year, and was brutally repressed by troops from the mainland. The 
form taken by the repression, both military and legal, gave a great 
impetus to the cause of Sardinian nationalism, and it was to this 
cause that Gramsci first adhered. Experience of the working-class 
movement in Turin was to lead Gramsci to abandon his attach- 
ment to nationalism as such, but he never lost the concern, imparted 
to him in these early years, with peasant problems and the complex 
dialectic of class and regional factors. A unique surviving essay 
from his schooldays at Cagliari shows him, too, already pro- 
gressing from a Sardinian to an internationalist and anti-colonialist 
viewpoint, as vehement in his opposition to European imperialism 
in China as in his repetition of what (he recalled in 1924) was the 
favourite slogan of his schooldays: "Throw the mainlanders into 
the sea!" 



In 1906 mainland troops were called in to repress the Sardinian 
peasantry. Later on, however, Gramsci was to discover the opposite 
side of the coin — Sardinian troops being used to hold down the 
workers of Turin. In general, the conflicts between industrial 
"North" and rural "South" tended to obscure more basic class 
questions. Since 1887, the growing industry of the North had been 
favoured by protectionist policies which kept out foreign capital, 
and secured its dominance of the domestic market. This protec- 
tionism provided the basis of an effective community of interests 
between big industrial capital and the reformist working-class 
organisations — a community of interests which was fostered by the 
policies of Giovanni Giolitti, the dominant bourgeois politician of 
the years preceding the First World War. But its impact on agri- 
cultural Italy was, with the exception of the cereal-producers in the 
Centre and North, calamitous: the peasants were no longer able 
to export their produce, and at the same time were forced to buy 
the products of Italian industry rather than the far cheaper goods 
made in the more advanced industrial countries. This was the main 
basis of what became the "Southern Question". One of its conse- 
quences was that the socialism which spread in the South and the 
islands was not that of the P.S.I. (Socialist Party of Italy) or the 
trade unions, but a kind of melange of socialist and liberal theories 
which can be traced back to the ideas and activity of Carlo Pisacane 
during the Risorgimento, and which was propagated most notably 
by Gaetano Salvemini in the period preceding the First World 
War. This "Southernism" was almost certainly Gramsci's political 
position, broadly speaking, at the time of his arrival in Turin in 
191 1. Salvemini in particular, an early socialist who resigned from 
the party because of its reformism and indifference to rural and 
Southern concerns, was to be a major intellectual influence in 
Gramsci's political formation. 

In 1 91 1 Gramsci, having managed to recoup the losses caused by 
his indifferent and interrupted early schooling, won a scholarship 
for poor students from Sardinia to the University of Turin, sitting 
the examination at the same time as a future student friend and 
fellow communist, Palmiro Togliatti. The scholarship grant was 
miserably inadequate, and cold and malnutrition played havoc 
with Gramsci's already precarious health. During 191 3-1 5 he 
was desperately ill most of the time, and eventually he was forced 
to abandon his studies, despite his talent, especially for philology 
and linguistics generally, and despite the encouragement of several 
of his teachers. However, there was a more important reason even 



than his impossible personal situation which finally decided him 
to leave the university. This was the fact of his growing political 

Intellectual Formation 

It was during his years at Turin University that Gramsci first 
came into serious contact with the intellectual world of his time. 
The deficiencies of liberal Italy had created a certain vogue for 
socialist ideas even in bourgeois circles, and many of the professors 
at the University had links with the socialist movement. Foremost 
among these were Umberto Cosmo, a literary historian and Dante 
scholar, with whom Gramsci became friends and whom he subse- 
quently was to criticise for his bourgeois style of attachment to 
the workers' movement, and Annibale Pastore, whose lectures on 
Marxism Gramsci attended. Here he was introduced to the par- 
ticular brand of Hegelianised "philosophy of praxis" to which he 
remained in an ambiguous critical relationship right to the end of 
his working life. 

The term "philosophy of praxis", best known today in connec- 
tion with Gramsci's Prison Notebooks, in which it is used partly 
for ite own sake and partly as a euphemism to deceive the censor, 
was introduced into Italy by Antonio Labriola, the only Italian 
theoretical Marxist of any consequence before the first world war. 
Labriola, who died in 1904, was a philosopher and historian who 
had come round to Marxism and to participation in the socialist 
movement fairly late in life, bringing with him distinct traces of a 
Hegelian intellectual formation. He saw the essence of Marxism 
in the unique nexus it established between theoretical and practical 
activity, and maintained the unity of philosophy and history; he 
distinguished himself from the Hegelian school mainly by his insis- 
tence on the primacy of concrete relations over consciousness. 
Labriola's ideas, particularly on the interpretation of history, were 
extremely influential, but mainly in intellectual circles and often 
in a distorted form which accentuated their latent idealism at the 
expense of their materialist base. The phrase "philosophy of 
praxis" in particular entered into the parlance of a specifically 
anti-materialist tendency of which the major exponents were 
Rodolfo Mondolfo and, in a marginal way, Giovanni Gentile. 

Gentile's role in the development of Italian Marxism was limited 
to one thing: his translation, the first into Italian, of Marx's Theses 
on Feuerbach, which he interpreted idealistically as referring to the 



process of cognition rather than to the real world and man's relation 
to it. Gentile's flirtation with Marxism was brief and superficial. 
His theory of praxis soon degenerated into a philosophy of the 
"pure act", of voluntarist and proto-fascist inspiration. He later 
became a major ideologue of fascism and was executed by the 
partisans during the resistance. 

Mondolfo was a far more serious figure, and after Labriola's 
death the leading philosopher of Italian socialism. His main con- 
tribution to Marxism lay in his attempt to drive a wedge between 
the "philosophical" Marx and the more empirical Engels. Mondolfo 
and his school were also responsible to a large extent for the idealistic 
interpretation of Labriola. The use, common to Labriola, Mondolfo 
and Gramsci of the same phrase "philosophy of praxis" has led 
some commentators to posit a common idealist matrix for the 
three thinkers. This is a view that must be treated with caution. 
In one feature Gramsci's mature thought is in accord with 
Mondolfo's ideas and that is in its constant underplaying of the 
materialist element in Marx's work, which, in Gramsci at least, is 
replaced with a stress on "immanentism" and the elimination of 
metaphysics. On the whole, however, Gramsci shows himself 
critical of Mondolfo and concerned to reassert the substantial 
Marxism of Labriola against both those Marxists who had criticised 
him for idealism and the idealists who had tried to claim him for 
their own. That Mondolfo's approach to Marxism entered into his 
own culture at this early period is certain, but as Gramsci himself 
was to point out, in relation to Marx, there is a distinction to be 
made between the personal philosophical culture of an author — 
what he has read and absorbed and maybe rejected at various 
periods of his life — and his own original philosophy. 

A far more important philosophical and cultural influence 
imparted to Gramsci in his early years was that of Benedetto 
Croce. Croce had been a pupil of Labriola and for a short period, 
between 1895 and 1900, professed himself a Marxist. He soon 
defected, declaring Marxism to be useful only as a "simple canon of 
historical enquiry and research" and pronouncing, with charac- 
teristic arrogance, "the death of theoretical Marxism in Italy" 
coincidental with his own defection. Croce's influence on the whole 
of Italian culture right up to the present time cannot be over- 
estimated. Despite his abandonment of Marxism many of his ideas 
continued to strike an echoing chord among young intellectuals of 
the left in the pre-fascist period: notably his secularism and his 
opposition to the previously dominant ideology of positivism. 



Politically his role was always ambiguous. His calls for ethical 
renewal had dangerous overtones, as his support for Mussolini in 
the early twenties was to show. But his continued association with 
the French theorist of syndicalism, Georges Sorel, helped to sustain 
the illusion that his could be a philosophy for the Left. 

Looking back on his student days, Gramsci was to describe 
himself self-critically as having been, in his youth, "tendentially 
Crocean", and many of his early articles have a distinct Crocean 
ring about them. This personal, though culturally imparted, 
Crocean influence on Gramsci himself must be carefully dis- 
tinguished from the attitude which emerges from the Quaderni, 
where Croce is considered more objectively as a philosopher and 
as a dominant figure in contemporary culture. Much of Gramsci's 
philosophical notebooks is devoted to a rigorous critique of Crocean 
philosophy in its relation to Marxism. In his prison writings he 
refers constantly to the need to combat Croceanism, both as a 
diffuse ideology and as a specific philosophical system, sometimes 
casting Croce in the role of a Diihring, to be polemically destroyed, 
but more often seeing him as comparable to Hegel as a thinker 
whose work could be profited from in the struggle to renew Marxist 
thought and liberate it from positivistic accretions. 

The substance of Gramsci's mature critique of Croce's philo- 
sophy relates to the latter's reduction of historical movement from 
a struggle of opposites to a merely conceptual dialectic, the "dialectic 
of distincts". While, Gramsci contended, such a schema might have 
its place in the philosophy of a society in which real conflicts had 
been eliminated and where the unity of knowledge and being, 
impossible in a class society, had finally been achieved, it was 
unable to offer an account of the actual concrete character of a 
history fundamentally determined by the class struggle. This 
abstraction of real history into an ethereal realm of distinct concepts 
went hand in hand, in Crocean philosophy, with a radical denial 
of politics. The distinct "categories" of the Crocean system allow for 
the existence of four sciences, Aesthetics, Economics, Logic and 
Ethics, relating to the pursuit respectively of the Beautiful, the Useful, 
the True and the Good. Politics, in this conception, can only be a 
composite entity, a mere "passion", of no philosophical value. In 
Gramsci's thought, by contrast, politics figures, philosophically, as 
the central human activity, the means by which the single 
consciousness is brought into contact with the social and natural 
world in all its forms. 

The critique to which Gramsci subjects Crocean idealism in the 



prison Quaderni is motivated, however, less by an abstract concern 
to expose its intellectual inadequacies than by an awareness of the 
need to destroy the influence which Croceanism, and Croce himself, 
had on all aspects of Italian cultural and even political life. Whereas 
in the period leading up to the first world war much of what Croce 
said and did could be held to have a positive value — his leftish 
sympathies, his revaluation of a "romantic" tradition in Italian 
culture from Vico through De Sanctis up to the present, his opposi- 
tion to contemporary positivism — the rise of fascism and Croce's 
ambiguous attitude to it had turned his role into a pernicious and 
reactionary one. Unlike Gentile, Croce did not play a direct and 
active part in the elaboration of fascist cultural policy and ;ven 
managed to draw intellectual credit from the fact of his abstention 
from public life after 1926. But the fact remains that he did support 
the regime at the outset and that the theoretical character of his 
later opposition was of a singularly insipid and depoliticising kind, 
whose effect on the intellectual strata subject to Crocean influence 
was at best to inspire a certain withdrawal from fascist vulgarity, 
but which more often promoted a habit of "justificationism" 
with regard to the regime far more extensive than any provoked 
by Hegel's supposed glorification of the Prussian monarchy. 

The war and fascism provided a brutal litmus test for many 
progressive and avant-garde intellectuals and artists beside Croce. 
Among those who supported or were at least complicit with the 
regime were D'Annunzio, Pirandello, Marinetti the futurist poet, 
together with most of his acolytes, the meridionalist Prezzolini, 
former editor of La Voce, Mario Missiroli and countless others. 
Many of these had been important figures in Gramsci's cultural 
formation, at a time when they had held advanced positions in the 
world of Italian culture and before Gramsci's own Marxism had 
matured and taken its definitive form. Not only Gramsci but the 
whole Ordine Nuovo group of Communists in Turin had been 
influenced by the cultural ferment of the prewar years and it is a 
sign of the complexity and confusion of the Italian situation that 
a group such as the Futurists, for example, whose Russian equiva- 
lents, led by Mayakovsky, had played a leading role in the formation 
of the Soviet avant-garde, should in Italy have degenerated into the 
barrel-organs of fascism. Be that as it may the whole question of 
the Italian intellectuals, their provincialism, their cosmopolitanism, 
their role in the power structure of Church and State, particularly 
in the South, was to become a major subject of Gramsci's reflection 
in prison. His critique is never sectarian. It starts from a realistic 



assessment of the objective weakness of the Italian intelligentsia 
with a view to recuperating those ideas and those forces which 
could contribute to the formation of a "national -popular" con- 
sciousness in association with the rising power of the proletariat. 
Even Crocean idealism, despite its evident anti-popular bias, is not 
totally dismissed, and those features of it which had positively 
impressed Gramsci in his youth are brought out and used, even, 
as an aid to the criticism of orthodox Marxism itself. 

Socialist Politics in Turin 

When Gramsci arrived in Turin, the city was the red capital of 
Italy — Gramsci was to call it Italy's Petrograd — home of its most 
advanced industry and above all of fiat. By the end of the war, 
fiat was to be the biggest producer of tractors in Europe; its 
workers were to increase from 4,000 in 191 3 to 20,000 in 191 8; by 
1915, it was exporting armoured cars and aeroplanes to the Entente 
countries in great quantities. Turin's population rose from some 
400,000 in 1 91 1 (20 per cent of them industrial workers) to over 
500,000 in 1 91 8 (30 per cent of them industrial workers) — and this 
despite the fact that between 5 and 10 per cent of the population 
was in the army and therefore not included in the 19 18 total. Of 
the Turin working class, some 40 per cent was made up of women, 
and these were in the vanguard of all the major proletarian 
upheavals which shook the city between 191 2 and 1920. 

One consequence of the specific character of Turin's capitalism 
was that, unlike the other major industrial cities of the country, it 
was relatively satisfied by the boom which it experienced in 
1 914-15, and hence favoured the policy of neutrality advocated by 
Giolitti. It was above all heavy industry — iron, steel, coal, ship- 
ping — which stood to gain from war. But the cotton and wool 
factories which still represented by far the greater part of Turin's 
industry, and the vehicle industry which was soon destined to 
outstrip these, were both so overwhelmed by orders from the 
belligerent Entente countries that they saw no need for direct 
intervention in the war. They had absorbed whatever unemployed 
labour they could find among the recent immigrants and especially 
among the women of the population, they were short of skilled 
labour and were intent above all on introducing new methods of 
raising productivity — the Taylorism which was to interest both 
Lenin and Gramsci so much — and in maintaining industrial peace 
as far as was possible. 



The latter task was a formidable one. The proletariat of Turin 
was the most advanced and combative in Italy. As early as 1904-6, 
it had demonstrated a high degree of solidarity and a readiness 
to take to the streets. Although it suffered a series of massive defeats 
in 1907, which were followed by years which saw the apogee of 
Giolittian "industrial peace" and the rapid growth of a collabora- 
tionist trade-union movement, nevertheless in 19 12 the metal- 
workers (those not organised in unions!) embarked upon a strike 
"to the end". This was defeated, after 75 days of struggle; but the 
metalworkers came out again — this time led by the union, the 
fiom — in the spring of 1913, and after a 93-day strike won a 
considerable victory (pardy as a result of government intervention 
against the employers' dangerous intransigence). These struggles 
were the background to Gramsci's first years in Turin. They won 
him from his youthful Southernism, demonstrating that the workers 
were the real enemy of the Northern industrialists, despite the 
collaborationism of their reformist leaders, and that they were thus 
the potential ally and leader of the peasant masses of the South. 
As war approached, and after its outbreak, the struggles of the 
Turin proletariat became yet more massive, and at the same time 
more political. The key stages in this trajectory were the general 
strike of June 19 14, following the bloody repression of an anti-war 
demonstration at Ancona; the huge anti-war demonstrations and 
general strike of May 19 15; and above all the insurrection of 
August 1 91 7. 

When Gramsci arrived in Turin, the two dominant influences 
on the younger generation of socialists were Salvemini, and 
Mussolini who was the acknowledged leader of the party's left wing 
and the editor of Avanti!, the party newspaper. Salvemini's impas- 
sioned crusading against the indifference of the reformist working- 
class leaders to the plight of the Southern peasantry has already 
been discussed. He had violently opposed the imperialist expansion 
into Libya in 19 12, and had been beaten up by government thugs. 
His newspaper was entitled Unitd, with the implication that genuine 
unity between North and South on a basis of equality remained to 
be fought for; years later in 1923 Gramsci proposed the same 
name for the new organ of the P.C.I. (Communist Party of Italy) 
"because ... we must give special importance to the Southern 
question". The influence of Mussolini was as great. An equally 
harsh critic of the Libyan expedition, and of the passivity of the 
reformist party officials, Mussolini wrote in the accents of Sorel, 
exalting the combativity of the masses and the potentialities of the 



general strike as a weapon in the class war. In this period he was 
also a passionate opponent of all forms of militarism. His youth 
and voluntarist temperament won him the admiration and loyalty 
of the younger generation, which he was only to forfeit in 1 9 14 when 
he became an advocate of Italian intervention during the war. 

To understand the complex internal life of Italian socialism in 
these years, it is essential to stress that the party itself was only one 
of the forces in play: the socialist trade union federation* (C.G.L.), 
the socialist deputies in parliament, the socialist local councillors, 
and the powerful cooperative institutions were none of them subject 
in any effective sense to party discipline. The primary concern of 
the party leadership throughout the war years was to play a unitary 
role in relation to these various forces; such a role could of its 
nature not be a revolutionary one, even though some at least of 
the party leaders were subjectively genuine revolutionaries. At the 
same time, the leadership was edged steadily to the left (in words 
at any rate) in response to the growing unpopularity of the war, 
the increasing militancy of the industrial workers, and later to the 
immense impact of the Russian revolutions. These twin, conflicting 
pressures combined to create the "maximalism" (Italian equivalent 
of the "centrism" which was an international phenomenon after 
the war, and whose most important expression was the German 
U.S.P.D.) which was to dominate the Italian Left until it was 
crushed by fascism, and of which Serrati, the editor of Avanti! 
after Mussolini's defection, was the most important and most 
honourable expression. 

In the course of the war years, a reformist Right, based primarily 
on the parliamentary deputies and the trade unions and led by 
Turati, Treves and d'Aragona, emerged as a coherent entity. Its 
main characterising feature, especially after the catastrophic defeat 
of the Italian army at Caporetto in 19 17, was its readiness to accept 
patriotic slogans. The official party position was defined by the 
party secretary Lazzari as "Neither support nor sabotage", and the 
principal source of dissent within the movement was the argument 
over whether or not support could be given to the various com- 
mittees (for aid to war victims, industrial mobilisation, etc.) formed 
to assist the war effort. The Right was favourable to participation 
in these, but the party leadership remained true to its "abstentionist" 
principles. Though positive as far as it went, this had some extremely 
negative consequences for the future. For the leadership had a 
"left" enough position to prevent the emergence of any effective 
organised Left until well after the war, while it was in no genuine 



sense revolutionary in its practice; at the same time, it profoundly 
alienated the petit-bourgeois strata — susceptible to patriotic slogans 
— who were to provide the social basis for fascism. Although there 
was a diffuse "Left" within the party, and this even constituted 
itself briefly as an "intransigent-revolutionary" faction in mid-1917, 
it overlapped to a great extent with the party leadership. It 
differed from official policy mainly on issues of "principle" — in its 
insistence that violence is inevitable as the midwife of revolution; 
that the reformists collaborating with the committees should be 
expelled; that the bourgeois notion of the "nation" should be 
repudiated, etc. The faction did also advocate a more active 
encouragement of mass resistance to the war, but it never elaborated 
any really distinct strategy. Although the "intransigent" faction of 
191 7 was in a sense the forerunner of the communist fraction of 
1919-20, it was short-lived and acted as the conscience of the party 
rather than as an alternative, left leadership. Many of its most 
prominent members, were to become centrists rather than commu- 
nists after Livorno (see below) . 

At the outbreak of war, the Turin branch of the P.S.I, had some 
1,000 members, of whom perhaps four-fifths were workers. This 
total was quickly reduced by conscription to not more than 500, 
and in the course of the war — despite the huge upsurge of revolu- 
tionary consciousness among the masses — almost certainly was 
further reduced by police repression, until in the last year of war 
the section almost ceased to have any public existence. The section, 
during the course of the war, became one of the bastions of the 
intransigent wing of the party, and this was especially true of the 
younger members, such as Gramsci. 

Gramsci's first political associate and mentor after his arrival in 
Turin was Angelo Tasca, who subsequently became the leader of 
the right wing of the P.C.I, until his expulsion after the left turn 
in 1929. Tasca, the son of a railway worker, born in the same year 
as Gramsci, had been active in the socialist party since 1909. In 
May 1912 he gave Gramsci a copy of War and Peace with theinscrip- 
tion "To my fellow student of today, and my fellow militant — I 
hope — of tomorrow". In November 1912 Gramsci moved to Tasca's 
street, and a year later to the same building, at more or less the 
same time as he joined the Socialist Party. Tasca had risen to 
national prominence within the party at its 1 9 1 2 youth conference, 
when he had clashed with the man who was to dominate the 
P.C.I, in its first years, and subsequently to lead its left faction 
until his expulsion in 1930: Amadeo Bordiga. Bordiga, the son of 



an agricultural economist, grew up in an intellectual socialist 
milieu in Naples, and through his immense energy — Gramsci was to 
describe him as capable of as much work as three others put 
together — soon imposed himself as the leader of the intransigent 
opposition to the reformist socialism which dominated the local 
party organisation. Whereas the young Turin socialists, in their 
reaction against the class collaborationism and passivity of the old 
socialist leaders, were influenced above all by Crocean idealism and 
Sorelian voluntarism, by Salvemini's Southernism, and by the 
experience of the mass proletarian struggles of Italy's most advanced 
industrial city, Bordiga's reaction took a different course. He 
fought for a return to Marxist orthodoxy, principled, intransigent, 
but also already showing the inflexibility and indeed dogmatism 
which were to characterise his political career. He also fought, 
however, for a national perspective for revolutionary strategy, at a 
time when Gramsci was still thinking in local terms; it was this 
factor above all, together with his early understanding of the role 
of the revolutionary party, which ensured his dominance in the 
P.C.I, at its foundation. 

At the 1 9 12 youth congress mentioned above, Tasca had 
demanded that Avanguardia, the youth organ of the Party, should 
become the bearer of a new culture and set out to renovate the 
intellectual patrimony of Italian socialism. Bordiga heaped 
derision on this "culturalism" : "The need for study is what a 
congress of schoolteachers proclaims — not a congress of socialists", 
etc. Gramsci, years later in his Prison Notebooks, was to write of 
this clash: "It is often claimed that [Bordiga's] 'economistic' 
extremism was justified by [Tasca's] cultural opportunism . . . but 
might it not be replied, vice versa, that the cultural opportunism 
was justified by the economistic extremism ? In reality, neither one 
nor the other was 'justifiable' nor should they ever be justified. They 
should be 'explained' realistically as twin aspects of the same 
immaturity and the same primitivism" (PP pp. 73-4). Gramsci's 
achievement within the P.C.I, was to win it away from Bordiga 
without delivering it to Tasca. 

During these early years in Turin, Gramsci also made the 
acquaintance of other future leaders of the P.C.I. — notably Togliatti 
and Terracini. Since the two latter, together with Gramsci and 
Tasca, formed the nucleus of collaborators responsible for the 
creation of L'Ordine Nuovo in 1919, there has been a tendency to 
read back their association as a group into the war years, which 
was not the case. Togliatti was essentially a student friend, whose 



political activity really dated from the end of the war; when war 
broke out he volunteered to serve in the medical corps. Tasca was 
called up immediately in May 19 15. Terracini, who had joined 
the Socialist youth organisation at the age of sixteen in 191 1, was 
arrested in September igi6 for distributing and- war propaganda, 
and after a month in gaol was also conscripted. Gramsci alone 
spent the war years in Turin. 

Gramsci's first political initiative was a blunder, and one that 
was to cost him dear. In October 1914, when Mussolini began to 
shift away from the official party position of neutrality in the war, 
Gramsci wrote an article in the party press defending him. The 
mistake was hardly surprising, given Gramsci's political inexperi- 
ence; Mussolini was the unchallenged leader of the P.S.I.'s left 
wing, and nobody, of course, could foresee his future trajectory. 
The internationalism of Lenin was utterly unknown in Italy at the 
time. Gramsci was motivated above all by scorn for the passivity 
of the official party position "Neither support, nor sabotage", for 
what was in effect nothing but a policy of "clean hands". He 
wrote: "Revolutionaries see history as a creation of their own 
spirit, as being made up of a continuous series of violent tugs at 
the other forces of society — both active and passive, and they 
prepare the maximum of favourable conditions for the definitive 
tug (revolution); they must not be content with the provisional 
slogan 'absolute neutrality', but must transform it into that of 
'active, operative neutrality'." It quickly became clear, of course, 
that Mussolini's perspective was a very different one, and Gramsci 
did not venture into print again for over a year. Despite his 
irreproachable record of opposition to the imperialist war in the 
ensuing years, the accusation of "interventionism" was still to be 
hurled at him years later by political opponents, on the basis of this 
one article. 

However, in 1915 Gramsci joined the staff of the Socialist Party 
weekly II Grido del Popolo, and became a full-time journalist. 
During the war years, he developed into a formidable political 
commentator. He wrote on every aspect of Turin's social and 
political life; on the strikes and demonstrations of the Turin 
working class; on international events such as the Zimmerwald 
Conference or the Armenian massacres. As the theatre critic of 
Avanti!, the party daily, from 1916 on, he was one of the first to 
recognise the importance of Pirandello. His influence extended far 
outside the ranks of the party itself. In 19 16, Gramsci spoke in public 
for the first time, addressing meetings on Romain Rolland, on the 


French Revolution, on the Paris Commune, and (taking as his cue 
Ibsen's play The Doll's House) on the emancipation of women. 
However, before 19 17 Gramsci did not play any very prominent 
part in the life of the Turin party organisation. 1 9 1 7 was the turning- 
point in his political formation: it was the year of the Russian 
revolutions and of the great proletarian insurrection in Turin. 

When the news of the February Revolution in Russia filtered 
through, Gramsci was in no two minds about its significance, 
despite the sketchiness of the censored press reports. As early as 
29 April 191 7, he wrote in 77 Grido del Popolo, the party weekly: 
"The bourgeois press . . . has told us how the autocracy's power 
has been replaced by another power which is not yet clearly 
defined and which they hope is bourgeois power. They have been 
quick to establish a parallel between the Russian Revolution and 
the French Revolution, and have found that the events are similar. 
. . . We, however, are convinced that the Russian Revolution is 
not simply an event but a proletarian act, and that it must naturally 
debouch into a socialist regime." Yet Gramsci's understanding of 
the true achievement of the Bolsheviks, or even knowledge of who 
precisely the Bolsheviks were (see, e.g. his article "Kerensky- 
Chernov" of 29/9/17), was inevitably still quite limited. Above all, 
he did not yet at all realise the importance of Lenin's theory and 
practice of the revolutionary, vanguard party. He responded above 
all to the affirmation of proletarian will which he discerned in the 
Bolshevik Revolution; after October, he wrote a famous article, of 
great interest despite its all-too-evident idealist misconceptions, 
entitled "The Revolution against Das Kapital". In this article he 
counterposed Lenin's achievement as an affirmation of revolutionary 
will against the determinism which dominated the Second Inter- 
national — a determinism justified with the help of a positivist 
interpretation of Marx's Capital. In his view "the Bolsheviks . . . are 
not 'Marxists' . . . they have not compiled on the basis of the 
Master's works an external doctrine, made up of dogmatic asser- 
tions. . . . They live the thought of Marx, that which can never die, 
which is the continuation of Italian and German idealist thought, 
and which in Marx was contaminated by positivistic and naturalistic 
incrustations". The parallel with Marx's own assertion that he was 
not a "Marxist" is obvious ; Gramsci was already more of a Marxist 
than he knew, but what he did, decisively, reject was the 
"Marxism" which held that there was "a fatal necessity for a 
bourgeoisie to be formed in Russia, for a capitalist era to open, 
before the proletariat might even think of rising up, of their own 



class demands, of their revolution". In other words the "Marxism" 
of the Mensheviks or of the Second International. 

The impact of the Russian revolutions of 1917 was perhaps 
more rapid in Turin than anywhere else in Europe. Hostility to 
the war had been general in the city from the start, and had grown 
in intensity as the conflict continued. The first months of 191 7 were 
punctuated by numerous industrial struggles launched to counter 
the effects of food shortages and rising prices; in the vanguard 
were the women workers, above all in the textile factories. As soon 
as the news of the February Revolution began to filter through, 
the idea of "doing the same as in Russia" spread like wildfire. By 
May the prefect of the city was asking the Government to proclaim 
the province of Turin a "war zone". Socialist speakers urged 
workers to "come to meetings in future . . . with revolvers . . ." 
to use against the police, and stressed that "it is imperative not to 
waste time, but to work actively for a general insurrection, get 
hold of bombs . . .", etc. These fiery words were not in fact accom- 
panied by any serious concrete preparation for any such course of 
action on the part of the socialist leaders, but they seized the 
imagination of the mass of workers in Turin, and of many workers 
in the other Italian cities. A typical attitude in this period was 
that of Serrati : on 8 May he was arguing at a national meeting 
of the socialist leadership that they should assume responsibility for 
co-ordinating the current struggles with a view to channelling 
them towards a general insurrection; after his resolution was 
defeated, he subsequently urged moderation on the intransigents of 
Turin — in line with the priority which he was long to continue to 
give to party unity. 

In August 1 9 1 7, on the occasion of yet another failure of bread 
supplies, the Turin proletariat rose in a spontaneous insurrection. 
Barricades went up in the working-class quarters, and the centre 
of the city was besieged. In so far as there was any organisation 
on the insurgent side, it was provided by the anarchists. The 
intransigent socialist leaders were as impotent as the reformist 
deputies or trade union officials. This impotence of the socialist 
leaders was to be demonstrated repeatedly during the next three 
years. The insurrection lasted for four days, and machine-guns and 
tanks had to be brought into the fray before the last barricades 
fell. Some fifty workers were killed in the fighting, and almost one 
thousand were subsequently either imprisoned or sent to the front 
by order of the courts. The August events showed with dramatic 
clarity both the immense revolutionary spirit of the Turin prole- 



tariat, and the wretched inadequacy of its political organisations. 

Before the August events, Gramsci had held no important post 
within the Turin party section, but when, in their wake, virtually 
all the socialist leaders were arrested, he was elected to the "Provi- 
sional Committee" which directed the semi-clandestine activities to 
which the party was reduced in the city until the war ended. He 
also became editor of 77 Grido del Popolo, which was a key position 
when the press was almost the only aspect of the party's activity 
which was able to continue a legal existence. His political position 
was evolving in the direction of a break not merely with the 
"centrist" party leadership, but also with the "purism" of the 
intransigent Left. In October 191 7, a meeting was held between 
the principal leaders of the intransigent faction mentioned earlier 
and representatives of the party leadership, including Serrati and 
Lazzari. This was followed in November by a secret conference 
held in Florence, with the aim of working out a common platform 
before the party's next national congress. By this time the only 
major point which separated the "intransigents" and the party 
centre — although it was to prove a crucial one — was their respective 
views on what should be done about the reformists : the centre was 
not prepared to expel them. Gramsci attended the conference as 
one of the two delegates from Turin, although he was not a member 
of the intransigent faction (which dominated the Turin party 
organisation). The net result of the conference was a declaration of 
support for the Zimmerwald and Kienthal congresses of anti-war 
socialists, and a formal condemnation of the reformists, Turati and 
the rest, who had compromised with social-patriotism. In this, it 
was a perfect example of the "purism" of Italian maximalist 
socialism, concerned above all with the preservation of principles, 
and offering no concrete strategy for political action. However, 
Bordiga, whose opposition to the war had from 19 14 gone beyond 
the "Neither support, nor sabotage" of the leadership, and who was 
of all Italian socialists during this period the nearest to Leninist 
positions, made a speech which ended with the words: "It is 
essential to act. The proletariat in the factories is tired. But it is 
armed. We must act." Gramsci spoke in his support. The two 
future leaders of the P.C.I, had met for the first time. Bordiga 
already enjoyed national stature as one of the most uncompromising 
of the leaders of the party's left wing for the past five years; Gramsci 
was attending his first national party function. In the three years 
which were to intervene between this meeting and the founding of 
the Communist Party at Livorno, Gramsci was to emerge as 




the main theorist of the factory council movement which focused 
the struggles of the most advanced section of the Italian proletariat 
in Turin, and as such he was to become a national figure. But in 
terms of party activity Bordiga was to be the unchallenged leader 
of that Left which was to become first the communist fraction 
within the P.S.I., and later the P.C.I. ; it was not until 1923 that 
Gramsci began to question that supremacy. At all events the com- 
bination of intransigence with an emphasis on action in Bordiga's 
speech to the Florence conference must have struck a chord in 
Gramsci. His political position was very different, in reality, from 
Bordiga's, but they shared a total impatience with the passivity of 
the party leaders. (It was incidentally at this meeting that Gramsci 
was first to be accused by a maximalist speaker of "voluntarism" 
and "Bergsonianism" — an accusation which was often to be 
repeated by opponents in the years to come.) 

In 191 8, after the war had ended, the idea that the revolution 
was on the agenda was common to both sides in the class struggle, 
in Italy as in most of continental Europe. But beyond the first, 
tremendous revelation of October, that the socialist revolution could 
be made, even in a country where the objective conditions were 
apparently "not ripe", the impact was a dual one, the lessons 
drawn of two kinds. Firstly, the supreme lesson for party militants 
everywhere was the role played by a highly organised, disciplined 
revolutionary party. In Italy, the quickest to appreciate this lesson 
was Amadeo Bordiga, and it is this more than anything else that 
explains his absolute dominance of the P.C.I, at its formation. But 
October had a second meaning, which for the proletarian masses 
was primary, and this was as the installation of Soviet power. The 
idea of these new institutions of proletarian power, which could 
both play a role in the revolutionary process and provide the 
institutional basis for the proletarian State, swept round the world. 
Germany in 19 18, of course, provides the most familiar and striking 
example of this inspiration, with the largely spontaneous springing up 
of workers' and soldiers' councils throughout the country. But in 
Italy, too, and above all in proletarian Turin, the impact of the 
Soviet model was immense. And during the next three years, 
Gramsci became the theorist and propagandist of an attempt to 
emulate that model in Turin. One result of this option was to delay 
his understanding of the central importance of the revolutionary 
party, so that he was not to play a determining role in the formation 
of the P.C.I. But at the same time it meant that Gramsci was at 
the centre of the main struggle of the Italian working class in the 



post-war period — a struggle which was to furnish the new P.C.I, 
with the essential of its working-class base. Moreover, Gramsci's 
writings of this period retain their theoretical interest and indeed 
relevance to this day. 

Ordine Nwvo, the "Red 2'ears" and the Founding of the P.C.I. 
The War ended in November igi8, and the two years that followed 
were marked by a constant, and growing, conviction on the part of 
most of the ruling class in Italy as among the mass of workers and 
socialists that the revolution was inevitable, and was only a matter 
of time. Yet by the time that the P.C.I, was founded in January 
1 92 1, the revolutionary wave was on the ebb; the workers had been 
defeated and had lost their confidence in the possibility of revolution. 
Big capital, shocked by what it saw as unnecessary concessions made 
by Giolitti to the working class and the socialists, was looking for 
a blunter instrument. And fascist squads had started their punitive 
expeditions in the autumn of 1920. The debate about whether a 
revolution was really on the cards in 1919-20 can of course never 
be conclusively resolved one way or the other; but what is certain 
is that even if the ruling class could not go on in the old way, and 
the oppressed classes were not prepared to go on in the old way, 
the revolutionary vanguard party which was needed to lead the 
assault on the bourgeois State did not exist until after the revolu- 
tionary crisis was over. 

Furthermore, the notion that the ruling class could not go on in 
the old way requires careful examination. It is true that there were 
no ruling-class parties to confront the mushrooming P.S.I. ; the 
country was governed by makeshift coalitions of parliamentary 
cliques and personal followings. It is true that the war was followed 
by a catastrophic economic crisis — the lira lost 80 per cent of its 
value between 191 4 and 1920; the budgetary deficit rose from 
214 millions in 1914-15 to 23,345 millions in 1918-19, with the 
main tax burden falling on the petite bourgeoisie; wheat production 
fell from 52 million quintals in 191 1- 13 to 38 million in 1920, and 
40 per cent of the balance of payments deficit was accounted for 
by food imports; production dropped after the war by 40 per cent 
in the engineering industries, 20 per cent in chemicals, 15 per cent 
in mining, etc.; coal prices were over 16 times higher in 1920 than 
they had been in 1913; etc., etc. — to which the various governments 
seemed to have no solution. It is true that there was a general 
feeling of impotence in the bourgeois press and among bourgeois 



politicians, in the face of the growth of industrial militancy and 
the advances of the P.S.I. Yet there is another side to this picture. 
Italian capitalism had been given an enormous shot in the arm by 
the war, and the process of concentration of capital was proceeding 
at a vertiginous pace. Between 19 15 and 191 7, the average rate of 
profit in industry went up from 4-26% to 7-75%; in advanced 
sectors the progress was dramatic — e.g. steel 6-3%-i6-55 %, vehicle 
manufacture 8 -2 %~30- 5%. Produc:ionof iron and steel multiplied 
five times in the course of the war, and firms like fiat increased their 
capital tenfold. These advances did indeed have a calamitous effect 
on the agricultural sector of the economy, and, by eliminating large 
numbers of small firms, helped to proletarianise important petit- 
bourgeois strata. Nevertheless industrial capital was in a particularly 
aggressive and confident mood in the immediate post-war period. 
Moreover, at least one bourgeois politician, Giolitti, had a coherent 
political strategy — of restraining the more intransigent employers and 
backing the reformist trade-union leaders — and, in the event, this 
strategy proved extremely successful, above all in the critical month 
of the factory occupations of September 1920. It would be utterly 
mistaken to portray fascism as a desperate last resort of a threatened 
ruling class. On the contrary, it was only after the defeat of the 
working class in 1920 that the big industrialists (and Giolitti) 
decided that the moment had come to replace the velvet glove by 
the iron fist, and gave financial support and tacit approval respec- 
tively to the fascist squads. 

In order to understand the "Great Fear" of the Italian bourgeoisie 
in this period, it is essential to grasp the character of the "maxi- 
malism" which dominated the P.S.I. After the event, commentators 
of every political persuasion were united in the view that the party 
had never at any moment seriously considered the problem of how 
to make the revolution, nor made any serious preparations for it. 
However, at the time, the verbal statements of its leaders and the 
party's adhesion to the Third International created a very different 
impression. The process whereby, from 1 9 1 7 on, the party leaders 
shifted their positions to the left, to converge with the "intransi- 
gents", has already been mentioned. When the Third International 
was founded, in March 1919, the P.S.I., although its delegates 
could not get to Moscow in time for the First Congress, immediately 
declared its adhesion — a decision that was ratified at the P.S.I.'s 
congress in October by an overwhelming majority. At this congress, 
a 65 per cent majority voted for a resolution calling for the installa- 
tion of Soviets in place of the institutions of bourgeois democracy, 



and for a transitional regime of dictatorship of the proletariat. In 
the November 19 19 general elections, the P.S.I, received almost 
two million votes, and returned 156 deputies to parliament, out of 
a total of 508 seats. Party membership rose from 20,000 at the end 
of the war to 87,000 in 1919, 180,000 in 1920; membership of the 
C.G.L. rose in the same period from 250,000 to two million. But 
despite its revolutionary language, the P.S.I, neither organised 
itself for insurrection, nor sought allies, for the industrial proletariat 
(four million strong at this time) among the peasants or agricultural 
labourers (each of whom represented a further four millions, 
approximately). Although the peasants were occupying feudal 
estates in the South throughout the revolutionary years, the party 
made no attempt to co-ordinate their struggles. It allowed the 
catholic Popular Party to organise the mass of small peasants in 
North and Central Italy. And it neither carried out any serious 
work in the army, nor organised the proletariat militarily. Finally, 
it alienated the urban petite bourgeoisie and the demobilised 
officers and failed to channel their resentments (caused by their 
critical economic and social position) against the ruling class. 

In April 191 9, Gramsci, Tasca, Togliatti and Terracini took the 
decision to found a weekly "review of socialist culture". Gramsci, a 
year later, when the Online Nuovo had become something very 
different, wrote critically of their original intentions: "When, in 
April 19 1 9, three, or four, or five of us decided to begin publishing 
this review Ordine Nuovo, none of us (perhaps) had any thought of 
changing the face of the world or of opening a new historical era. 
None of us (perhaps : some had fantasies of 6,000 subscribers in a 
few months) had any rosy illusions about the possible success of 
the project. Who were we? What did we represent? What slogan 
did we have to offer? Alas! The only sentiment which united us, 
in our meetings of that period, was based on a vague enthusiasm 
for a vague proletarian culture; we wanted to act, to act, to act, 
we felt trapped, without perspective, amid the feverish life of those 
months following the armistice, when the cataclysm of Italian 
society seemed imminent." These words were written in polemical 
vein, against Angelo Tasca; for from June 19 19 on, Gramsci, 
supported by Togliatti and Terracini, had found the "slogan" 
which was to characterise Ordine Nuovo, i.e. the idea of the Factory 
Councils as the Italian equivalent of the Soviets, and had met a 
growing dissent from Tasca. Nevertheless, it is certainly true that 
neither Gramsci nor the others could have had any idea in April 
191 9 either of the course that the proletarian struggles would take 



in Turin or of the influence that their modest journal would come 
to wield among the workers of the city. 

At all events, less than a month after the appearance of the first 
number Gramsci was already writing: "The history of the class 
struggle has entered a decisive phase after the concrete experience 
of Russia : the international revolution has acquired form and body 
since the Russian proletariat invented (in the Bergsonian sense) the 
State of the Councils, digging into its experience as an exploited 
class, extending to the entire collectivity a system and order which 
synthesises the proletarian form of economic life organised in the 
factories around the shop committees, and the form of its political 
life organised in the neighbourhood associations, in the town and 
village sections, in the provincial and regional federations in which 
the Socialist Party is articulated." And by June the idea that the 
shop committees (commission interne) were the potential nucleus for 
factory councils, which would be the first stage in the creation of 
Italian "soviets", was expressed by Gramsci in an Ordine Nuovo 
editorial "Democrazia Operaia" inunambiguous terms. This thematic 
became the hallmark of Ordine Nuovo and of the group which 
coalesced around it. During the succeeding eighteen months the 
journal became the ideological motor of a proletarian struggle in 
Turin which was not merely the most advanced of those revolu- 
tionary years in Italy, but which persuaded the leaders of the Third 
International that a proletarian revolution was imminent. Although 
its circulation was only about 3,000 copies in 19 19, and averaged 
at most 5,000 in 1920, it nevertheless was a genuine "organiser" 
in the Leninist sense, and both played an essential part in the 
organisation of factory councils in all the factories of any size in 
Turin and also provided the P.C.I, with the major part of its 
working-class base. 

This is not the place for an analysis of the theoretical position 
worked out in the pages of the weekly Ordine Nuovo in the twenty 
months of its existence. Its main features, however, and also its 
main weaknesses must be indicated briefly, for an appreciation of 
its relation to Gramsci's mature thought. The idea of "Soviets" was 
common currency on the Italian Left in this period, from the 
reformists at one extreme to Bordiga, whose journal in Naples was 
entitled 77 Soviet, at the other. But Ordine Nuovo distinguished itself 
from the rest of the Left in four important ways. First, and most 
important, it related its theories directly to the practice of the 
Turin working class; it had a programme for the realisation of a 
soviet system, and fought for that programme. By the summer of 



1920, there were councils in all the main factories of the city. 
Secondly, the new institutions were to be completely independent 
of the traditional working-class organisations; they were to be 
institutions of the whole proletariat, including non-organised workers, 
anarchists, etc. This conception was bitterly attacked by all sectors 
of the Italian Left, and was the real cause of Tasca's dissent. For 
Gramsci's conception saw the councils as the institutions whereby 
the dictatorship of the proletariat would be exercised, institutions 
which stood towards the "voluntary", "private" associations such as 
the party and the trade union in a relation of "State" to "govern- 
ment". This apparent subordination of the traditional working-class 
organisations was a source of scandal to the Left as a whole, for 
whom Serrati certainly spoke when he asserted that "the dictator- 
ship of the proletariat is the conscious dictatorship of the Socialist 

In the third place, Ordine Nuovo saw the factory councils and 
the territorial Soviets which would subsequently be based on them 
as the embryos of the future socialist state. And fourthly it 
claimed that: "The real development of the revolutionary process 
occurs below the surface, in the obscurity of the factory and in the 
obscurity of the consciousness of the numberless masses whom 
capitalism subjects to its laws"; "the revolution is proletarian and 
communist only in so far as it is a liberation of productive and 
proletarian forces"; "we, as Marxists, must strive to grasp the 
terms of the problem of power in the productive organism". 

These ideas were attacked particularly sharply by Bordiga, as a 
form of gradualism. "This, call it reformism or syndicalism, is 
defined by the erroneous view that the proletariat can emancipate 
itself by winning ground in economic relations, while capitalism 
still holds political power through its control of the State." Bordiga 
was not wrong to point out syndicalist tendencies in Gramsci's 
thought at this time. The ideas developed in the pages of Ordine 
Nuovo were deeply influenced both by Daniel de Leon, the theorist 
of the Wobblies, and by the British shop stewards' movement. 
Moreover, Gramsci certainly underestimated the role of the State, 
and hence had not grasped the role of the revolutionary party in 
organising the seizure of power. But at the same time, it is something 
of a paradox that Bordiga, who so early appreciated the implica- 
tions of the Bolshevik revolution, and who was aware two years 
before Gramsci of the need to break organisationally with the 
socialism of the Second International, should have so little under- 
stood the need to break with that Second International socialism 



ideologically as well, and should have continued to share its rigidly 
mechanical conception of the relationship between party and masses. 

For the Ordine Nuovo group's immense merit was its grasp of the 
role of the masses, and their spontaneous action, in the revolutionary 
process. Oddly, in view of the accusation of "voluntarism" which 
was so often to be hurled at them in these years, they were the only 
Italian Marxists to attempt to pose the problem of revolution in 
non-voluntarist terms. Gramsci, in November 19 19, wrote: "Even 
if a revolutionary minority succeeded in seizing power violently, 
that minority would be overthrown the next day by the backlash 
of capitalism's mercenary forces . . . the communist revolution is a 
necessity in Italy more for international reasons than for reasons 
inherent to the process of development of the national productive 
apparatus . . . The revolution finds the great popular masses of 
Italy still amorphous, still fragmented. . . ." In Gramsci's view, it 
was only through the creation of organisms capable of uniting the 
masses and channelling their spontaneity, that the revolution could 
command majority assent and hence overcome definitively the 
power of the capitalist State. 

However, it was not until the spring of 1920, on the eve of the 
great Turin metalworkers' strike, that Gramsci began to pose 
correctly the relation between mass institutions and the revolutionary 
party. He then wrote an article — destined, to the horror of the P.S.I, 
delegates, to be described by Lenin as "fully in keeping with the 
fundamental principles of the Third International" — entitled "For 
a Renewal of the Socialist Party", in which he said, notably: "The 
existence of a cohesive and strongly disciplined Communist Party 
which, through its factory, trade-union and co-operative nuclei, 
co-ordinates and centralises within its own executive committee all 
of the proletariat's revolutionary activity, is the fundamental and 
indispensable condition for attempting any Soviet experiment." 
But by this time, as Gramsci was to recognise with bitter self- 
criticism in subsequent years, the task of national co-ordination of 
the proletariat's revolutionary activity had been left too late. The 
April metalworkers' strike was in fact the high point of revolutionary 
mass struggle in the postwar years; and it was only after its defeat 
that the Ordine Nuovo group attempted to sink its theoretical 
differences with Bordiga, in order to participate in the process of 
creating an Italian Communist Party. It was only after the defeat of 
the factory occupations in September, i.e. after the effective end of 
the period of postwar revolutionary upsurge, that the Party was in 
fact formed — on Bordiga's terms. 



The April strike was provoked by the employers. Their objective 
was explicitly the ending of "dual power" in the factories, i.e. the 
destruction or emasculation of the commissioni interne. That they 
succeeded, despite a month's strike by the metalworkers, ten days 
of general strike throughout Turin and the province of Piedmont, 
and the organisation of an urban Soviet defended by armed 
workers, was due not to the huge armed force which was concen- 
trated in the city — "an army of police . . . cannon and machine- 
guns at all strategic points" as Gramsci described it — but to the 
failure of the Turin comrades to secure the support of the party or 
trade unions nationally, and to draw in workers outside Piedmont. 
Their failure to organise earlier on a national scale now caught up 
with them, and Turin stood alone. Avanti! refused to print the 
manifesto put out by the Turin section of the party, calling for the 
solidarity of workers in the rest of the country. The party executive 
moved its National Council meeting from Turin to Milan during 
the strike. Ordine Nuovo's appeals for an urgent tabling of the 
question of insurrection were ignored. And although the result of 
the strike — a compromise limiting the power of the commissioni 
interne — was not seen immediately in Turin as a decisive turning- 
point, it was nonetheless the moment at which the proletarian 
advance of the postwar period was checked. 

The summer of 1920 was a critical period for the Ordine Nuovo 
group. In May Bordiga, who had begun to organise a national 
communist fraction in the previous autumn, called a meeting in 
Florence of the various left groups within the Socialist Party. His 
own fraction called itself the "abstentionist" fraction, andhadalready 
made electoral abstentionism the basic differentiating feature of 
its positions. The Third International, which had been counselling 
restraint, since it hoped that the communists would carry a majority 
in the P.S.I., sent a representative; Gramsci attended as an observer. 
Gramsci proposed, on behalf of the Turin comrades not already 
members of Bordiga's abstentionist fraction, that a national com- 
munist fraction should be formed on a non-abstentionist platform, 
in line with Comintern recommendations. This was rejected, and 
Gramsci returned to Turin isolated. The unity of the Ordine Nwvo 
group was lost in these months. Tasca's dissent from the entire 
factory council thematic as developed by Gramsci came into the 
open, and he urged a turn back towards the traditional working- 
class organisations. Terracini and Togliatti drew nearer to the 
maximalists who dominated the Turin section of the P.S.I., and 
the former was co-opted into the party leadership; they did not 



follow Gramsci in his moves towards Bordiga, but formed their own 
"electionist" faction as a rival to the "abstentionists". Gramsci 
spent the following months promoting communist education groups 
in the factories; he later described Togliatti and Terracini as having 
"rejoined Tasca" in this period. Ordine Nuovo was no more able to 
organise nationally after the April moment of truth than it had been 

In July 1920, the Comintern held its Second Congress. The 
Italian delegates ranged from Bordiga to the reformist trade-union 
leader d'Aragona; all were received warmly, especially Serrati, who 
had known Lenin since the Zimmerwald Congress. However, 
despite the illusions undoubtedly harboured on the revolutionary 
character of the P.S.I. — illusions which were to persist for at least 
another three years, and which were to be an important cause of 
the P.C.I.'s long resistance to the United Front policy — nevertheless, 
criticisms of Serrati's reluctance to expel the reformists were already 
beginning to be voiced. The Italian delegates learnt with surprise 
and dismay of Lenin's approval of the Ordine Nuovo positions. The 
two main programmatic bases of the Congress were the 2 1 points — 
which were to prove unacceptable to Serrati — and Lenin's Left- 
wing Communism, an Infantile Disorder — which was directed against 
Bordiga, among others. But it would be quite incorrect to present 
the "right" and "left" deviations on the same plane. The Congress 
was held at a moment of huge confidence in the revolutionary 
prospects. The International's support was growing at immense 
speed. The Red Army was advancing towards Warsaw. It was the 
immediacy of the task of making the revolution which made it so 
essential to expel the reformists and to forge communist parties 
adequate to that task. Right-wing opportunism was the enemy — 
left-wing communism merely an infantile disorder to be outgrown. 
Bordiga abandoned abstentionism after the Congress vote; Serrati, 
however, was adamant in bis refusal either to change the name of 
the P.S.I, or to expel the reformists. Bordiga came away from the 
Congress determined not only to create the P.C.I, as soon as 
possible, but to exclude from it all "centrists". The real gulf between 
him and the International was not on the comparatively unim- 
portant issue (given the revolutionary perspectives of the period) 
of abstentionism, but on the far more essential question of whether 
it was necessary to win the majority of the working class. Bordiga's 
position was then, and always remained, an utterly rigid one; the 
party should be pure and hard, and if it followed the correct 
policies then the mass of the working class would of course follow 



its lead. The idea of trying to win the majority of the P.S.I, was 
of no interest to him, since he was already convinced of their 
irrevocable "centrism". On the other hand, he was equally 
opposed to mass movements, such as the Turin factory councils, 
which were not strictly controlled by the party. Ultimately his line 
resulted in an almost complete immobilism. 

However, Bordiga's supremacy among the communists in the 
P.S.I, was total. He had been the most intransigent of the left 
leaders, and by a long way the first to organise on a national level. 
His implacable anti-centrism was shared by all the Left, especially 
the youth organisation, who were so impatient to have done with 
the P.S.I, that they could not be restrained from setting up an 
autonomous communist youth section on their own in August 1920. 
It was precisely because Gramsci's anti-centrism was as implacable 
as Bordiga's own that he took so long to face up to the consequences 
of his dissent from other aspects of Bordiga's leadership. Indeed, 
he never clearly distanced himself from Bordiga's position on the 
United Front strategy at all, at least until after his arrest, and then 
only in part. Yet differences with Bordiga there certainly were, 
from the very beginning. For Gramsci was to say (in 1923) of the 
way in which the P.C.I, was formed, i.e. of the failure to win the 
majority of the socialist workers to the new party, that this was 
"without a doubt reaction's greatest triumph": not an opinion 
shared by Bordiga. At all events, this summer of 1920 was the 
moment when Ordine Nuovo lost its unity and momentarily its sense 
of direction, and when Bordiga's supremacy among Italian com- 
munists was decisively consolidated. 

In September 1920, as the Italian delegates were returning from 
the Comintern Congress, the occupation of the factories broke out 
in Milan, and quickly spread throughout the country. As Gramsci 
was to stress subsequently, this confrontation was one chosen by 
the employers, however impressive the proletarian response may 
have been. Upon the threat of a lockout, workers at the Romeo 
plant occupied the factory. The unions encouraged the spread of 
this tactic to other factories, as a defensive move in the industrial 
struggle. But the movement soon assumed a scale and character 
which far exceeded anybody's expectations, the unions' most of all. 
It was now that the real impact of Ordine Nuovo's ideas and agitation 
made itself felt. Factory councils sprang up everywhere, not merely 
in Turin, and not merely in the engineering industry. In many 
places, and notably at Turin, production continued. "Where possible, 
the workers armed the factories, expecting a counter-blow from 



the State. But although the movement was by far the greatest in 
scale of all the working-class struggles of this revolutionary period 
in Italy, the balance was heavily weighted against the workers. The 
trade unions were from the start looking for a compromise solution. 
When, for tactical reasons, the reformist trade-union leaders 
challenged the P.S.I, leadership to make good their revolutionary 
words, offering their resignations if the P.S.I, wished to assume 
leadership of the unions directly and to organise an insurrection, 
the P.S.I, leaders at once refused. They, too, were anxious to find 
a way out of the situation, which was outside their control. They 
asked the Turin representatives (who included Terracini, as well 
as maximalists who would join the P.C.I, at its founding congress 
at Livorno like Gennari) whether the Turin proletariat was pre- 
pared to take the lead in an insurrectionary bid for power. But 
the Turin representatives, quite apart from their suspicions — only 
too justified in view of the events of April — that they were being 
cast in the role of sacrificial lambs, knew very well that the arms 
and military preparation even of the workers of Italy's "Petrograd" 
were totally inadequate for such an enterprise. The Ordine Nuovo 
might have implanted an idea that had caught the imagination of 
the masses; the intransigents and Bordiga's abstentionist fraction 
might have defined an attitude which rejected all compromises; but 
not even these forces — and how much less the mass organisations, 
the Party and the trade unions — had made any serious attempt to 
organise the proletariat, on a national scale, for a revolutionary 
assault on the capitalist State. All Giolitti, who had become Prime 
Minister again in June, had to do was to restrain the more hot- 
headed employers who would have liked the troops sent in — an 
action which might have provoked precisely the immense mass 
reaction which alone could have escalated the confrontation to a 
struggle for state power — and to wait until the workers had fully 
realised that their leaders' revolutionary words were empty rhetoric. 
Then, there was no difficulty in reaching a compromise, by means 
of an offer of industrial co-partnership which was to be echoed 
with equal success by another threatened bourgeois politician 
forty-eight years later in France. Even the term "participation" 
used so skilfully by De Gaulle in 1968 was used before him by 
Giolitti, although the latter also spoke of "trade-union control". 
At all events, the bait was sufficient for the reformist leadership of 
the C.G.L., which was only waiting to be hooked and brought 
to land; a compromise was reached, and the factory occupations 
were called off. The Ordine Nuovo group, whose thematic had been 



translated into revolutionary practice by the working class of all 
Italy, were entirely impotent at the national-organisational level; 
matters were decided between Giolitti and the C.G.L., and the 
revolutionary phase of postwar Italy was effectively brought to a close. 

For despite Giolitti's success, the employers were in no mood to 
be satisfied with the compromise he had achieved. Many of them 
saw the notional "control" which he was prepared to grant the 
unions as a mortal threat to their positions of power. It was in the 
autumn of 1920 that fascist squads began to carry out raids on 
behalf of the landowners of North and Central Italy against both 
the socialist and Catholic peasant associations, and against socialist- 
controlled municipalities such as that of Bologna or socialist papers 
such as the Trieste daily II Lavoratore. And it was also during this 
period that a number of industrialists began to pour funds into 
Mussolini's organisation. In all probability Giolitti too was a 
source of fi nance for the fascists in this period. At all events Bonomi, 
Giolitti's ex-socialist Minister of War, in October 1 920 sent out a 
circular giving effective encouragement to demobilised officers to 
join the Fasci. And the entire early development of fascism from 
the marginal phenomenon of 19 19 to the mass phenomenon of 1920 
was assisted by massive State connivance. - 

During this same period, the communist fraction within the P.S.I, 
assumed public form and prepared for the party's January 1921 
National Conference at Livorno. Communist sections were formed 
throughout the country. The failure of the occupation of the 
factories had demonstrated what the communists had been saying 
for months, that the centrist leaders of the P.S.I, could not make 
the revolution; it gave a real urgency to the recommendations con- 
tained in the International's 2 1 points. The International appears 
to have believed during this period that the communists would carry 
the majority of the P.S.I. ; Gramsci may have shared this illusion. 
But Gramsci did not share the International's limited view of the 
objectives to be pursued vis-a-vis the centrist leaders. For while the 
International was merely concerned to secure an acceptance of its 
discipline and the twenty-one points, Gramsci, like Bordiga, sought 
an emphatic rejection of the entire past of Italian socialism — seen 
as responsible for the defeats of the last two years. Togliatti was 
to describe the intensity of this rejection: "The Livorno split was 
essentially, and predominantly, an act of struggle against centrism. 
. . . We fought root and branch against Turati and Modigliani 
[the reformists], but as for Serrati, we hated him . . . The main 
obstacle was not the reformists but maximalist centrism." It was 



an attitude which was at the root of the Italian party's long resis- 
tance to Comintern directives. 

In the manifesto of the communist fraction which was published 
on 15 October 1920 in Milan, over the signatures of Bordiga, 
Gramsci, Terracini and others, Bordiga's supremacy was obvious. 
The entire Ordine Nuovo thematic was absent, as was any reference 
to the relation between party and masses, to soviet democracy, to 
organisation in the factories, etc. The emphasis was on discipline 
and centralism, and on purity of principles. There were undoubted 
differences of perspective between the various components of the 
future P.C.I. Quite apart from the ideas developed in Ordine Nuovo, 
which Gramsci had certainly not abandoned wholesale as subse- 
quent events were to show, there was a clear difference of perspective 
with respect to the overall political prospects. Whereas Bordiga dis- 
missed the signifi cance of fascism, believing that a social-democratic 
"solution" was the most likely for the ruling class to adopt, Gramsci 
had as early as April 1920 written that the two possibilities were 
black reaction or proletarian revolution (though he too was to 
waver in this view in the coming years, and to speak on frequent 
occasions of the probability of a social-democratic solution). But 
both shared a conviction that revolution was still very much on 
the immediate agenda; and Gramsci was at this time convinced, 
too, that the only possible way in which the communist party 
could be formed was on Bordiga's terms. 

At all events, the communist delegates went to Livorno with 
58,783 votes, compared so the Centre's 98,028 and the reformists' 
14,695. The first communist to speak, Secondino Tranquilli (subse- 
quently known as Ignazio Silone) the editor of the youth paper, 
asked the communist delegates to "burn the effigy of unity". They 
left the conference singing the Internationale, and held their own 
founding congress in a neighbouring hall. The Central Committee 
elected had six abstentionist members, two Ordine Nuovo (Gramsci 
and Terracini), and seven ex-maximalists; but Bordiga was in fact 
more entirely dominant than these numbers would suggest, since 
he quickly won over the entire C.C. to his views, with the sole 
partial exception of Gramsci, who was thus totally isolated. It was 
to be three years before he would fi nd the political confidence, and 
establish the autonomous political positions, which would permit 
him to challenge Bordiga's leadership of the new party. 

The P.C.I, under Bordiga 1 921 -192 3 

At the time of the Livorno Congress and the foundation of the 



P.C.I., Gramsci was not yet thirty. He had less than four years of 
serious political activity behind him. The three years that followed — 
years which saw the consolidation of fascist power in Italy, the 
reflux of the revolution internationally, the beginnings of the 
struggle for power within the Russian party, and a growing rift 
between the Italian party and the Third International — represent 
a period of uncertainty and indeed at times anguish in Gramsci's 
political career. Until all his work for the years between 1922 and 
1926 has been published, and until more is known about his life 
and activity in Moscow (May 1922-November 1923) and in Vienna 
(December ig23-May 1924), it will not be possible to reconstruct 
fully his political biography for these crucial years. Hopefully, by 
the time that the introduction to an English selection of Gramsci's 
early writings comes to be written, many of the existing gaps will 
have been filled. At all events, we have limited our objectives here 
to giving an extremely schematic indication of the complex historical 
context within which Gramsci's political activity was inserted — in 
terms of three main, interrelated determinants: international 
developments and the united front; Italian developments and 
fascism ; the struggle against Bordiga and Tasca inside the party. 

For most historians writing with the hindsight of today, the 
period of possible revolution in the West in the wake of the First 
World War and the October Revolution was a brief one, over 
effectively by 1921 at the latest. This is no place to discuss the 
correctness of this estimate. What must, however, be stressed is that 
this was by no means the view of communists throughout the early 
twenties, despite all the setbacks and defeats. The notion that the 
proletarian revolution was no longer on the immediate agenda was 
the hallmark of the social-democrats, and was fiercely rejected by 
all currents within the Third International. 

The response of the Comintern to what were, at that time, seen 
as temporary ebbings of the revolutionary tide was, fundamentally, 
the united front policy. This characterised Comintern strategy, 
despite fluctuations in interpretation, at least until 1925-6. Its 
basic idea was that the communists, now that they had expelled, 
or split from, the reformists, should seek to engage the latter 
in forms of common action; only thus could they win a majority 
in the working class — which has a fundamental interest in unity, 
whether in defensive or in offensive action. As Lenin put it: "The 
purpose and sense of the tactics of the united front consist in drawing 
more and more masses of the workers into the struggle against 
capital, even if it means making repeated offers to the leaders of 



the II and 11^ Internationals to wage this struggle together. When 
the majority of the workers have already established their class, i.e. 
their Soviet, and not 'general national' (i.e. in common with the 
bourgeoisie) representation, and have overthrown the political 
domination of the bourgeoisie, then the tactics of the united front, 
of course, cannot require co-operation with parties such as that of 
the Mensheviks and the S.R.s, for these have turned out to be 
opponents of Soviet power"; and again: "If there are still people 
at the enlarged meeting of the Executive who have not grasped the 
fact that the tactic of the united front will help us to overthrow the 
leaders of the II and 11^ Internationals, these people should have 
an extra number of popular lectures and talks read to them" 
{Collected Works, Vol. 42, pp. 411 and 401). The slogan "To the 
masses" which was launched at the Third World Congress in 192 1 
was a recognition that in most cases (there were exceptions like 
Bulgaria) the communist parties were not yet followed by the 
majority of workers, and that only when they were would revolution 
be attainable. 

This eminently dialectical tactic required an unremitting struggle 
against left and right deviations in the interpretation of it, and 
ultimately broke down in the "right" and "left" zigzags of 1927-8 
and 1929-34. On the one hand, a number of parties, among them 
the P.C.I., had the greatest reluctance in accepting the hated 
centrists as in any sense potential allies — even if the object was 
partly to discredit them. They rejected the idea that it was necessary 
to win the majority of the working class. The entire history of the 
P.C.I, between 1921 and 1924 was characterised by a series of 
disagreements with the Comintern which all turned on this point. 
The most that the Italian communists — and here Gramsci or 
Togliatti did not differ from Bordiga — were prepared to accept was 
what they termed the united front "from below"; but clearly this 
was tantamount to a rejection of the tactic, since the only reason 
for it at all was the impossibility as yet of establishing direct contact 
with the majority of the working class or of by-passing their 
reformist or centrist leaders. 

On the other hand, in those years of revolutionary reflux, there 
was immensely strong pressure to accept, even without necessarily 
being conscious of so doing, the reformists' abandonment of all 
revolutionary perspective. This "liquidationist" danger was an 
ever-present reality in the minds of communists like Bordiga or 
Gramsci, who saw the Comintern continually placing what they 
regarded as false hopes in the P.S.I, and negotiating with its leaders 



directly, and who were only too aware that the main supporter of 
the united front inside the Italian party was precisely Tasca, whom 
they suspected of not sharing their implacable spirit of rupture with 
the entire tradition of Italian socialism. Togliatti expressed such 
fears, for example, when at a 1923 Central Committee meeting he 
spoke of the Comintern's directive to pursue a policy of fusion with 
the P.S.I, after the latter's expulsion of the reformists. He said: 
"The greatest risk was and still is that, under the cover of the fusion 
policy, there will be a growth of tendencies which cannot be called 
anything else but 'liquidatory' of the communist party and move- 
ment; that what I termed above our first and most important 
achievement in the consciousness of the Italian masses will be for- 
gotten"; the achievement in question was "the demonstration of 
the necessity for every future political development of the Italian 
proletariat to take place on bases radically different from those that 
have been traditional in the socialist movement". 

The roots of the schism between the new P.C.I, and the Comintern 
go back, of course, well before the united front policy was pro- 
claimed in December 1921. Lenin had sharply condemned 
Bordiga's abstentionism in 1920. In the summer of 1921, the 
International had been highly critical of the P.C.I.'s attitude to 
the arditi delpopolo (see note 25 on p. 230 below). At the Third World 
Congress in June, the Italian party had aligned itself with the new 
leadership of the German party in support of the "theory of the 
offensive" (formulated notably by Bela Kun) ; that theory was the 
object of harsh criticism from Trotsky in his keynote report to the 
Congress, and when Terracini, the P.C.I, spokesman, defended it 
he found himself at the receiving end of one of Lenin's most 
devastating polemical broadsides. Terracini had invoked the posi- 
tions of the previous World Congress in support of the P.C.I.'s 
views, but the year which separated the two Congresses had seen 
the proclamation of N.E.P., a swift growth of Italian fascism, and 
the failure of the "March Action" in Germany; Zinoviev, at the 
end of March and under pressure from Lenin, had written an 
article speaking of the slow-down of the revolutionary tempo. Despite 
the arguments of the important German and Italian parties for 
the theory of the offensive, the Congress was marked by a new de- 
termination to win the majority of the working class and launched 
the slogan "to the masses" — in an adumbration of the united front. 
Moreover, it was at this time that a major disagreement about 
policy inside Italy came to the fore — a disagreement that was to 
last until the popular front period in the thirties. This concerned 



the attitude to be taken up towards the P.S.I. Already in this 
summer of 1921, the P.C.I, leaders were deeply suspicious of the 
hopes placed by the International in the P.S.I.; the latter had not 
yet expelled the reformists, but the International generally believed 
that they would and that the P.C.I, should then fuse with them, 
while the P.C.I, leaders were utterly opposed to any such perspec- 
tive, even if the reformists were to be expelled. 

In December 1921, the united front policy was formally launched 
by the Comintern Executive; it meant common action between 
the rival Internationals, between rival left parties, and in the trade- 
union field. The Italian party was resolutely opposed to it, and was 
at the most prepared to accept a limited application of it in the 
trade-union field. Togliatti, in the same Central Committee meeting 
of 1923 quoted above, went on to say: ". . . it was obvious that, so 
shortly after our formation as an autonomous party, we were 
resistant to any tactical shift which might . . . cause the mass of 
the party and of the proletariat to forget what for us was the first, 
solidly won position . . . Hence our reservations about an immediate 
application by us of the united front in the political field . . .". 
In the Enlarged Executive meeting of February /March 1922, 
Terracini again attacked the entire new policy, and was rebuked 
by Lunacharsky, Radek, Trotsky and Zinoviev in turn. 

The disagreement continued throughout 1922. In March, the 
P.C.I, held its second Congress at Rome. The Congress theses (see 
note 1 03 on p. 200 below), whose main section on tactics was drafted 
by Bordiga and Terracini, were attacked by Trotsky and Radck on 
behalf of the Comintern Executive, and again by Kolarov the 
Comintern representative at the Congress itself. Kolarov was 
answered not only by Bordiga and Terracini, but also by Gramsci — 
who argued that the P.S.I, with whom the Comintern wished the 
communists to fuse was fundamentally a peasant rather than a 
proletarian party! Kolarov's intervention was of critical importance 
for future developments in the party, since it stimulated the 
emergence of a right-wing opposition group headed by Tasca, who 
stood for a full application of the united front policy. However, for 
the moment the Bordigan executive was reconfirmed by the congress 
as a united bloc; the right minority was not represented in the 
party's leading bodies; and Gramsci was sent to Moscow as the 
P.C.I, representative to the Comintern Executive. 

In the remainder of the year the rift between the Italian party 
and the Comintern widened yet further. Zinoviev attacked the 
Italians violently for not participating in the Alleanza del Lavoro — a 



front of trade unions, formed on the initiative of the anarcho- 
syndicalist railwaymen's union and to which the C.G.L. gave its 
support. On the other hand, the P.C.I, was bitterly critical of 
Zinoviev's negotiations with the P.S.I., which in October expelled 
the reformists and affirmed its adhesion to the Third International. 
At the Fourth World Congress in November, substantial differences 
were evident on the nature of fascism, on the slogan of "workers' 
governments", and above all on the issue of fusion with the P.S.I. 

With respect to fascism, Zinoviev in his opening address tended 
to dismiss it as a transitory phenomenon. He concentrated his fire 
on the social-democrats — whom he now defined as the "left wing 
of the bourgeoisie". Radek's report on the capitalist offensive, 
however, was in marked contrast — and may very well have been 
influenced by Gramsci. It stressed the petit-bourgeois components 
of fascism, the sectarianism shown by the proletarian organisations 
towards the ex-combatants, and the aid of the big bourgeoisie in 
fascism's rise to power — while reiterating that the fundamental class 
contradiction remained that between bourgeoisie and proletariat. 
This complex analysis was in sharp contrast to that of Bordiga, who 
in the main report to the Congress on fascism refused any distinction 
between the general capitalist counter-offensive and fascism, and 
spoke of the latter's convergence with social-democracy, describing 
fascism as a great unity movement of the dominant class. He stated 
that "fascism has introduced no novel elements into traditional 
bourgeois politics or ideology". The Congress as a whole tended to 
accept Radek's view of the danger of Italian fascism, almost certainly 
inspired by Gramsci; but ironically enough Gramsci himself- — who 
had foreseen the possibility of fascist victory in Italy so early and had 
developed the essential elements of an adequate analysis of the 
new phenomenon — was to oscillate over the ensuring years in his 
analysis. Bordiga characteristically remained unswervingly loyal to 
his univocal view, but Gramsci like the rest of the P.C.I, leaders 
was to show continuing uncertainty, stressing now the petit- 
bourgeois origins of fascism, now its internal contradictions, now 
its agrarian component, now the predominance of finance capital, 
and now its function as an expression of the entire ruling class. 
To some extent it was Tasca who was most consistently to develop 
Gramsci's early intuitions in the next years, and who was to be 
most consistent in his emphasis on the specificity of fascism, while 
Gramsci was still not free of Bordiga's influence. 

The Italians also differed sharply from the majority of the Fourth 
Congress on the issue of "workers' governments" — a slogan con- 



ceived by Zinoviev, and attacked violently by Bordiga. The slogan 
was indeed more than a little ambiguous, and was to be interpreted 
in widely divergent ways in the coming years, not least by Zinoviev 
himself. But the real bone of contention was the issue of fusion 
with the P.S.I., which was the subject of prolonged discussion. 
Gramsci, Bordiga and the other delegates belonging to the majority 
were obdurate in their resistance to the Comintern pressure. Tasca, 
on the other hand, was strongly in favour of the fusion proposals. 
In the course of the discussion, Trotsky seems to have made an 
attempt to persuade Gramsci to differentiate himself from Bordiga, 
asking whether each individual Italian delegate was free to vote as 
he wished; when this produced no result, Trotsky launched a 
bitter attack on the Italian positions: "This is the ne plus ultra of 
disagreement between the P.C.I, and the communist international — 
anything further would mean open rupture . . . Gramsci is demand- 
ing a privilege of intransigence for Italy. On the question of the 
united front you made a bloc with France and Spain. The others 
have now recognised that they were wrong, but you refuse to do 
so . . . You continue to repeat the same error on every issue . . . 
We propose that you should accept the collective adhesion [of the 
P.S.L] first, and then you can make an individual selection after- 
wards ... If you do not have the sympathy of the broad masses, 
you will not be able to maintain a legal existence. If you are bent 
on limiting your base you will end up without a base at all and will 
be regarded as a sect." Finally, on 24 November, an ultimatum 
over the signatures of Lenin, Trotsky, Zinoviev, Radek and Bukharin 
was delivered to the Italian party. And it was then, for the first 
time, that a rift appeared — if only briefly — in the Bordigan majority. 
For whereas Bordiga was for a purely formal acceptance of dis- 
cipline, but an effective policy of non-application of the Comintern's 
directives, Gramsci disagreed. He feared that continued resistance 
would bring the right-wing minority and Tasca to power in the 
party, and the majority of the Italian delegates shared his desire 
for a more active policy than that favoured by Bordiga. The upshot 
was that Gramsci and Scoccimarro, together with Tasca, partici- 
pated in the fusion committee nominated by the Congress, while 
Bordiga boycotted it. However, this difference of opinion between 
Bordiga and Gramsci was still essentially tactical — although 
Gramsci was later to claim that he had not dared to press it further 
in the absence of support among the other P.C.I, leaders in Italy, 
and for fear of handing power in the party to Tasca. At all events, 
the consequences were minimal, since the fusion issue was resolved 



once and for all a couple of months later by the predominance 
within the P.S.I. — despite the expulsion of the reformists, and 
against all the Comintern's expectations — of an anti-fusionist 
majority headed by Nenni. 

It was at about this time that the Comintern began to make 
serious probings with respect to the possibility of changing the 
P.C.I, leadership — although as early as the autumn of ig2i over- 
tures had been made to Gramsol to join the party executive in 
order to act as a counter-balancing influence vis-a-vis Bordiga. Now 
Rakosi (Rakosi, Kuusinen and Humbert-Droz were the three 
Secretaries to the Executive Committee of the Communist Inter- 
national in this period) offered Gramsci the leadership directly, with 
what Gramsci described sarcastically as "the diplomatic delicacy 
which was characteristic of him" ; Gramsci's response was to reject in 
embarrassment the notion that the problems of the P.C.I, could be 
solved by such manipulative means. Indeed, it cannot be stressed 
too strongly that it is quite impossible to understand the transition 
from the Bordiga leadership of 1921-3 to the Gramsci leadership 
of 1924-6 simply by reference to Comintern influence. It is necessary 
also to consider the actual history of the party's political experience 
in Italy, and the context within which it had to operate. 

The P.C.I, was formed in the first period of widespread fascist 
terror. Although at Livorno it commanded delegate votes equiva- 
lent to two thirds of those of the maximalist centre, its real strength 
after the split proved to be far smaller. In the April 1921 general 
elections, the communists won 290,000 votes, while the socialists won 
over a million and a half. Party membership was around 40,000 
in 1 92 1, of whom 98 per cent were workers and less than \ per cent 
(245 in all) intellectuals. In that summer, while fascist violence 
continued, Mussolini simultaneously engaged in complex parlia- 
mentary manoeuvres. In August, the P.S.I. — who were so opposed 
to any armed resistance to fascism that they had actually published 
in Avanti! an extract from Papini's Story of Christ under the banner 
headline: "Do Not Resist!" — signed a pacification pact with the 
fascists. The situation in 192 1-2 was dominated by a grave eco- 
nomic crisis, and the weakness of successive bourgeois governments. 
Wages declined by some 30 per cent; there were half a million 
unemployed by the beginning of 1922 ; C.G.L. membership dropped 
from two million to 800,000, and P.S.I, membership from over 
200,000 at Livorno to 100,000 in October 1921, 70,000 in October 
1922 before the party congress, and 25,000 after the expulsion of 
the reformists at the congress. Throughout the early months of 



1922, there was a continual dialogue des sourds between the P.C.I., 
hostile to any alliance with the other left organisations but pressing 
for a general strike and direct action against fascism; the reformist- 
led C.G.L., whose aim was to detach itself from the maxi- 
malist-dominated P.S.I, and form a Labour Party which could 
participate in a government coalition; and the P.S.I., which was 
locked in a sterile combination of verbal intransigence with total 
passivity in practice. In the summer of 1 922, fascist violence broke 
out anew, and a general strike was finally called for 31 July; this 
was, however, effectively sabotaged by the C.G.L. leaders, and 
crushed by fascist counter-blows. This action was the last massive 
expression of popular resistance to fascism, and its defeat had a 
decisive negative impact on the morale of the proletariat. When 
Mussolini "marched" on Rome in October 1922, the P.C.I.'s call 
for a general strike found no response. During 1922, P.C.I, member- 
ship, although resisting far better than that of the other left parties^ 
nevertheless fell to about 25,000 in September. 

The fascist seizure of power in October 1922 was predictably 
enough followed by a vast wave of repression. In late 1922 and 
above all early 1923, it crushed most of the oppositional party 
organisations and press. Terracini wrote in February 1923: "The 
fascist government has unleashed the long announced anti-com- 
munist round-up. In a week the police has arrested more than 
5,000 comrades, including all our area secretaries, all communist 
trade-union organisers, all our local councillors. Moreover, it has 
succeeded in seizing all our party funds, and thus in delivering 
what is perhaps a mortal blow to our press ... a real man-hunt 
by the police hand-in-glove with the fascist squads . . . Our party 
is not submitting, or yielding; a quarter of our members under 
arrest, our organisation shattered, our press silenced, our branches 
dissolved, deprived of our leader comrade Bordiga who is under 
personal danger of death or torture, the Italian Communist Party 
has already reassumed its function and its activity." And indeed, 
although the party's illegal organisation proved to have serious 
weaknesses in this first test of its effectiveness, nevertheless some 
important successes were registered; notably the printing and 
distribution of a clandestine edition of Ordine Nwvo (now a party 
daily), and the holding of a number of public meetings in spite 
of the atmosphere of terror. However, the magnitude of the blow 
which had been struck at the young party needs no emphasising, 
and is an index of the total failure to appreciate the dangers of 
fascism under Bordiga's leadership. It would be unjust to claim 



that the P.C.I, leadership was responsible for the fascist secure 
of power — as both Tasca and Radek were at different times to 
suggest — but it certainly gravely underestimated its significance, 
and continued to do so until ig26. Even Gramsci did not prior to 
his arrest arrive at a consistent and adequate appreciation of the 
specificity of the new type of regime, and as for Bordiga, his declara- 
tion in 1924 that "the bourgois counter-revolution for us is the 
proof of the inevitability of the revolution" eloquently sums up his 
determined rejection of the idea that the fascist seizure of power 
was anything to worry about at all. 

The Interregnum in the Italian Party 1923-24 

The arrest of Bordiga and the massive blow which had been struck 
at the entire party organisation meant that the time when the 
Comintern, as mentioned earlier, began seriously to prospect the 
possibility of making changes in the P.C.I, leadership in order to 
bring the party into line coincided with a moment in which external 
circumstances compelled provisional changes in any case. It was 
to be well over a year before a new, coherent leadership emerged, 
with positions as sharply distinguished from those of Bordiga as 
they were from those of Tasca. It was to be another year after that 
before the new leadership gained unshakeable control. But the 
events of early 1923, when fascist repression reduced active member- 
ship of the P.C.I, to little more than 5,000, and when the original 
leadership was shattered by arrest and exile, so that a replacement 
leadership on the ground had perforce to be installed, was decisive 
in breaking Bordiga's grip on the party. 

Yet it must be emphasised that the significance of what had 
happened was by no means appreciated at the time by the Italian 
communist leaders involved. Throughout 1923, Gramsci, Terracini, 
Togliatti, Scoccimarro and the other members of the future "centre" 
of 1924 continued to support Bordiga — and with the partial 
exception of Gramsci they did so by conviction. They all, including 
Gramsci, continued to see Tasca and the Right as the principal 
threat. During the early months of 1 923, the International tended 
to lay the blame both for the failure to fuse with the socialists and 
for the successes of fascism at the P.C.I.'s door. This was Tasca's 
view, and his reports to the Comintern during this period tended 
increasingly to assume the character of a bid for the leadership. 
The result, throughout 1923, was a closing of ranks in the majority 
behind Bordiga. The correspondence exchanged in late 1923 and 



early 1924 between the future members of the "centre" leadership 
of 1924-6 shows them all apprehensive of the danger of Tasca 
winning power in the party with Comintern backing, and hence 
all unwilling to contemplate a break of any kind with Bordiga. 
Moreover, all of them, including Gramsci, continued throughout 
1923 to share the greater part of Bordiga's perspectives, even 
though they were becoming increasingly anxious about the rift 
with the Comintern which these entailed. Although according to 
Gramsci himself, and judging by the correspondence referred to 
above, a "centre" group of a kind began to take form from the 
time of the Fourth World Congress, it did so only in an absolutely 
unorganised and barely conscious fashion. It was not until the end 
of 1923, after his move to Vienna in November, that Gramsci 
took the initiative in a series of letters to Togliatti, Terracini, 
Scoccimarro, Leonetti and others towards constituting a new 
leading group without Bordiga or his followers. 

The P.C.I, executive in the first years of its existence consisted of 
five men, all solid supporters of Bordiga, despite their differing 
political pasts prior to Livorno ; Bordiga himself, Grieco, Terracini, 
Repossi and Fortichiari. Now Bordiga and Grieco had been arrested, 
and Fortichiari — who was responsible for the party's illegal organi- 
sation — went to Moscow to discuss how best to organise resistance 
to the fascist regime. Terracini was left as the de facto leader of 
the party within Italy, and, at the Comintern's suggestion, he 
now co-opted Togliatti and Scoccimarro onto a new provisional 
executive, and Tasca onto the Central Committee; the latter was 
then sent to Paris to organise the Italian emigrd community there 
(there were 45,000 Italian emigre^ workers in France in 192 1; 
200,000 in 1924; over 450,000 by 1926). In April, Terracini himself 
was called to Moscow, and Scoccimarro sent to Berlin. Togliatti 
was left in effective leadership of the party within Italy. 

On 12 June 1923, there took place a meeting of the Enlarged 
Executive of the Comintern largely devoted to the Italian question. 
The polarisation of forces within the P.C.I, leadership had reached 
a new high point. Bordiga, in prison, represented an increasingly 
coherent position at one end of the spectrum: the Comintern policy 
for Italy would lead to the liquidation of the P.C.I. ; the Comintern 
itself was showing signs of degeneration; the Italian party was a 
left vanguard struggling against this degeneration. At the other 
extreme, Tasca was urging full acceptance of the Comintern line. 
Moreover, he was involved in complex three-way negotiations with 
the Comintern and with the new "third-internationalist" minority 



faction inside the P.S.I, (headed by Serrati). Gramsci, Terracini, 
Togliatti and the other fut'are members of the post-1924 centre 
group saw this line-up as a particularly grave "liquidationist" 
threat, and continued to solidarise with Bordiga. 

The Comintern decided to instal a temporary "mixed" leader- 
ship, in the form of a provisional executive composed of Fortichiari, 
Scoccimarro and Togliatti from the old "majority", and Tasca 
and Vota from the minority. Bordiga was opposed to this solution, 
and advocated a typically abstentionist policy of "all power to the 
minority"; he subsequently persuaded Fortichiari to withdraw 
from the appointed executive (he was replaced by Gennari). 
Scoccimarro and Togliatti at first hesitated, but were persuaded 
to accept their posts by Gramsci. The position was now one of 
the most extreme complexity. The Comintern had for the first time 
nominated a new party leadership against the wishes of a majority 
of its own nominees. Bordiga, Fortichiari, Grieco and Repossi of 
the original P.C.I, executive all favoured an intransigent policy of 
non-collaboration in any such imposed executive ; Togliatti, Terra- 
cini and Scoccimarro were equally unhappy about the imposed 
solution, but were persuaded by Gramsci that the dangers of 
accepting were less than those of allowing a right-wing leadership. 
Togliatti finally wrote to the others that he was prepared to accept 
the post given him by the Comintern Executive only on condition 
that the old leading group should constitute itself as a fraction and 
begin "an open polemic with the International and with the 
minority in the party, by means of a series of declarations of principle 
and polemics which must be not only communicated to the Inter- 
national but disseminated among the masses". As in the case of 
the tactical disagreement between Bordiga and Gramsci at the 
Fourth World Congress eight months earlier, the Bordigan majority 
was still not divided on substantial issues; but in this case, the 
practical consequences of a disagreement on tactics were to be 
incomparably greater. It was at this juncture that Gramsci began 
to search for a way out of the sterile impasse in which the Italian 
party found itself — although it was to be another six months before 
he was to begin concretely to prospect the possibility of creating a 
new centre majority without Bordiga. 

By the summer of 1923, Gramsci had been in Moscow for a year. 
Remarkably little is known about this period in his life. One of the 
most surprising features of his published writings is the absence of 
any reflections on, or even descriptions of, Russia as he knew it in 
the eighteen months he spent there at what was a crucial period in 



the history of the revolution. What can be gleaned from his writing 
and outside sources is merely a few bare elements. He was very ill 
in the first months of his stay, and spent them in and out of a 
clinic. He attended the Fourth World Congress, in which his part 
has already been discussed above. He met Julia Schucht and fell in 
love; their few months together, in Moscow and when she came to 
Italy in 1925/6, were an isolated interlude of personal happiness in 
Gramsci's life. He was constantly expecting to be sent back to Italy, 
but the issue of a warrant for his arrest made this impossible. He 
sent Trotsky some information about Italian futurism, at the latter's 
request, to be included as an appendix to the original edition of 
Literature and Revolution. His Comintern activities are likely to have 
brought him into contact with Radek and with Zinoviev, and when 
he left Moscow and took his leave of the latter he told him of his 
intention to propose a new slogan of a "federal Soviet republic" 
for Italy. Lastly, as we shall see, his letters written from Vienna to 
Togliatti, Terracini and others in early 1924 show that his political 
sympathies at this time were with the Left in the Bolshevik Party. 

It is very hard to judge, on the basis of material published to date, 
what Gramsci's overall attitude to Bordiga was during the first 
years of the P.C.I.'s existence. On the one hand, there are numerous 
documents testifying to a substantial identity of positions on all the 
most important issues. On the other, there is Gramsci's own testi- 
mony that his motives for accepting the Bordiga policies for so long 
were mainly tactical, and that he was later to blame himself 
bitterly for not differentiating himself from Bordiga earlier. At all 
events, it seems clear that such differences as there were concerned 
not so much questions of overall analysis, or of strategy even, as 
the relation between theory and practice. While broadly sharing 
Bordiga's views on the united front and the nature of social- 
democracy, and while not as yet having drawn any very consistent 
conclusions from what was a very different analysis of fascism, he 
did clearly disagree with Bordiga's lack of any positive strategy 
within Italy, with his entire conception of the party and its relation 
to the masses, and with his inflexibility — especially vis-d-vis the 

There exist two documents which give a good idea of Gramsci's 
positions in this summer of 1923, and which show him after the 
Enlarged Executive meeting of June (when Zinoviev had criticised 
him for equivocating on the issue of fusion with the third interna- 
tionalists) beginning to elaborate a new approach to the leader- 
ship problem, although still firmly opposed to the Comintern's 



policy on fusion. Firstly, in a memorandum on "Relations between 
the P.C.I. and the Comintern" now in the P.C.I, archives, he 
wrote: "The present majority of the CP. intends to defend to the 
last its position and historical role in Italy, where the unified CP. 
must be constituted with an ideological centre which is neither the 
traditional socialist one nor a compromise with that. We are 
defending the future of the Italian Revolution . . . We may have 
made mistakes and we are willing to amend them, but we are not 
willing to allow the centre of attraction and of assimilation of new 
elements entering the Italian section of the Comintern to be shifted 
on to a new basis — represented by individuals who want to make 
a compromise with the socialists on the fundamental issue. The 
attitude of the Comintern and the activity of its representatives is 
bringing disintegration and corruption into the communist ranks. 
We are determined to struggle against the elements who would 
liquidate our Party, and against the corrupt elements. The situation 
of illegality and exile makes this obligatory. We do not want what 
happened in Hungary and in Yugoslavia to be repeated in Italy. 
If the Comintern too receives a few blows as we strike back, we 
should not be blamed for that: it is a mistake to ally oneself with 
untrustworthy elements." The second document consists of a letter 
sent in late July to a number of comrades, including Togliatti, 
Terracini, Fortichiari and Leonetti, in which Gramsci wrote: "I am 
absolutely convinced that at present no useful results can come of 
any discussion that is limited by us to the organisational and 
juridical aspects of the Italian question; such a discussion could 
only make things worse and render our task more difficult and 
dangerous. What we need to do is to work concretely to prove, by 
Party activity and political work that is wholly adapted to the 
Italian situation, that we are what we claim to be; and to abandon 
the attitude of 'unappreciated geniuses' that we have maintained 
up to now." The final passage is a clear enough expression of 
Gramsci's criticisms of Bordiga at this moment. 

Although, as we have already pointed out, it is still not possible 
to trace fully the itinerary of Gramsci's political development in 
these years, the documents quoted are unambiguous evidence of 
the basic elements of his position in the summer of 1923. They show 
the fatuity of the view that Gramsci was simply the "Comintern's 
man", parachuted into the leadership in place of the refractory 
Bordiga. If anybody was the Comintern's man at this time it was 
Tasca, and Gramsci did not differ from Bordiga in his condemnation 
of Comintern policy. On the other hand, the documents show 



Gramsci beginning to arrive at an estimate of Bordiga's policy 
which was not so dissimilar from his earlier hostile judgement on 
the "intransigent" immobility of the P.S.I, leaders at the end of 
the war. From the time of his first, ill-starred entry into print on 
the subject of neutrality in 1914, one of the constants of Gramsci's 
position was his view that revolutionary politics must necessarily be 
an active intervention in history, and could not consist simply in 
adopting "correct" positions and waiting to be proved right, waiting 
for the historical process to provide the circumstances in which the 
ruling class would topple, the true revolutionaries would be acknow- 
ledged by the masses and socialism could be ushered in. In this 
summer of 1923, the contrast between Bordiga and Gramsci was 
already a sharp one, despite the considerable overlap between their 
views. Sharing a common estimate of the crucial importance of 
defending the party against the "liquidation" which — in their 
view — was threatened by the Comintern's tractations with the very 
centrists against whom the P.C.I, had been formed, Bordiga con- 
cluded that the International was degenerating and that it was 
necessary to organise an international opposition to fight that 
degeneration; whereas Gramsci concluded in effect that the party 
should assume fully the task of making the revolution in Italy — if 
need be despite the International. In a letter written a few months 
later from Vienna he was to write: "Amadeo approaches things 
from the viewpoint of an international minority, but we must 
approach things from the viewpoint of a national majority." This 
difference of perspective was to play a decisive part subsequently 
in determining Gramsci's attitude to the inner-party struggle in 

Throughout 1923, the P.C.I, existed in a state of semi-legality. 
It was not banned as such, but its leaders, militants and press were 
subject to constant repression and harassment. April was the low 
point as far as membership was concerned — with little more than 
5,000 in the party. The summer saw a slow build-up to some eight 
and a half thousand in November. However, in September 
Togliatti, Tasca, Vota and Gennari — i.e. four of the fi ve members 
of the new provisional executive — were arrested. In October, the 
first trial of communists took place; it was a great personal triumph 
for Bordiga, and culminated in his release. In December Togliatti, 
Tasca and the others were also released. But in late December and 
in January 1924 new repressive measures once again reduced the 
communist press to total silence. 

After his release, Bordiga had returned to Naples, and refused 



any position in the leadership. Instead, he drafted an open letter 
to all party militants aimed at reaffirming the views of the old 
majority of the P.C.I, vis-a-vis both the Comintern and the right- 
wing minority. Terracini, Togliatti, Scoccimarro and the others 
were all at first prepared to sign, but Gramsci refused point-blank, 
and in a series of letters won over the three mentioned above, 
Leonetti, Gennari, Tresso and Camilla Ravera: the centre group 
for the first time had a concrete existence. In November, Gramsci 
had moved from Moscow to Vienna, to take charge of a newly- 
founded Comintern bureau for anti-fascist action. This was the 
moment at which he seems finally to have decided to initiate the 
creation of a new centre majority without Bordiga, and to work to 
heal the rift with the Comintern. Although he was by no means 
won over to the Comintern's views on the united front policy, he 
was not prepared to follow Bordiga on his path of creating an 
international opposition, and was increasingly hostile to the 
immobility of his policies within Italy. 

What Gramsci proposed as a way out of the impasse in which 
the P.C.I, found itself was a new strategy for the party in Italy, 
a strategy with close affinities with the old Ordine Nuovo thematic 
of 1919-20, and also a thorough-going renovation of the party 
itself, inspired by a quite different conception from that of Bordiga. 
As early as September 1923, in a letter to the P.C.I, executive 
written from Moscow on the subject of a proposal to found a new 
working-class daily newspaper in collaboration with the "third- 
internationalist" current which was in the process of being expelled 
from the P.S.I., Gramsci began to evoke some of the themes which 
were to inspire both his political practice between 1924 and 1926 
and also his prison writings. He suggested Unita as the name of 
the new paper (see p. xxvi above), and proposed the slogan of a 
"federal republic of workers and peasants" as an intermediate 
"ideological preparation" for a soviet regime; this concern with 
the "Southern Question" and with the concrete form which the 
alliance of workers and peasants might take in Italy represented 
something quite new in the Italian party at that time. He also 
revived one of the main themes of Ordine Nuovo in a proposal to 
build on the commissioni interne as a counter to the reformist leader- 
ship of the C.G.L. — increasingly tending to compromise with 

In the months which followed, in a series of letters to the other 
members of the new "centre" group of P.C.I, leaders, Gramsci 
outlined the main elements of the new strategy which he proposed 



they should fight for. The main objective should be to win for the 
P.C.I, a genuine mass base. To this end Gramsci proposed, on 
i March, four main areas of initiative: i. intensive propaganda 
around the slogan of a worker and peasant government; 2. a 
struggle against the labour aristocracy, i.e. against reformism, 
aimed at cementing an alliance between the mass of workers in 
the North and the peasant masses in the South; the creation of a 
special organising committee for the South, and a study of the 
possibilities for organising an armed insurrection in the South; 
3. an intensive programme of political education within the party — 
with the object of superseding the existing internal divisions — and 
the enlargement of the leadership; 4. the stepping up of communist 
activity among the emigre population, above all in France. In 
later letters, Gramsci propounded the idea of a "federal" perspective 
for the South; stressed the importance of attempting to stimulate 
the formation of nuclei of future factory councils (this was to be 
one of the fundamental elements of P.C.I, strategy in the ensuing 
two years, up to the moment of Gramsci's arrest) ; discussed the 
possible transitional stages which might intervene between the 
defeat of fascism and a proletarian revolution; and spoke of the 
importance of winning the Milan working class to communist 
positions as a precondition for the revolution in Italy. 

But perhaps more important even than the new strategic aims 
which Gramsci outlined in these letters was the new conception 
of the party which he put forward. In the key letter of the entire 
correspondence, written on 9 February 1924, he wrote: "The error 
of the party has been to have accorded priority in an abstract 
fashion to the problem of organisation, which in practice has simply 
meant creating an apparatus of functionaries who could be depended 
on for their orthodoxy towards the official view . . . The communist 
party has even been against the formation of factory cells. Any 
participation of the masses in the activity and internal life of the 
party, other than on big occasions and following a formal decree 
from the centre, has been seen as a danger to unity and centralism. 
The party has not been seen as the result of a dialectical process 
in which the spontaneous movement of the revolutionary masses 
and the organising and directing will of the centre converge; it 
has been seen merely as something suspended in the air, something 
with its own autonomous and self-generated development, something 
which the masses will join when the situation is right and the crest 
of the revolutionary wave is at its highest point, or when the party 
centre decides to initiate an offensive and stoops to the level of the 



masses in order to arouse them and lead them into action. Naturally, 
since things do not work out in this way, areas of opportunistic 
infection have formed without the centre knowing anything about 
them. These have had their reflection in the parliamentary group, 
and subsequently, in a more organic form, in the minority." The 
continuity of this critique of the P.C.I, under Bordiga with 
Gramsci's earlier analysis of maximalism is evident, and it was to 
be expanded and more fully theorised in some of the key passages 
of the Prison Notebooks. For the moment, Gramsci began to 
develop these themes in the pages of Ordine Nuovo, which was 
resuscitated as a theoretical organ in March; he wrote the first 
numbers almost single-handed in Vienna, and clearly saw the new 
review as a key element in the intensive campaign of political 
education which was essential if the party was to be won to a new 
political strategy. 

In the spring of 1924, the P.C.I, prepared to fight a general 
election — under a new weighted electoral code and in a climate of 
terror and electoral fraud. Fascism had succeeded in absorbing 
broad strata of the bourgeoisie and petite bourgeoisie behind its 
electoral list, and by now had won the support of the Vatican 
(provoking a split in the Popular Party — see note 14 on p. 62); 
it was backed by the decisive centres of financial and industrial 
capital. Most of the opposition parties favoured boycotting the 
election, but when the P.C.I, announced that it would participate 
the other anti-fascist parties followed suit. The P.C.I, proposed an 
electoral bloc, but this was refused; it therefore formed its own list, 
together with the "third-internationalists" who had been expelled 
from the P.S.I, and were to join the P.C.I, formally after the Fifth 
World Congress in June. The Comintern representative in Italy 
during this period — J. Humbert Droz — was particularly active in 
pressing the P.C.I, leaders to adopt a "flexible" policy towards the 
other anti-fascist forces; he worked very closely with Tasca and 
Vota, the minority members of the executive. 

At the time of the electoral campaign, the P.C.I, had some 
12,000 members (if the 2,000 "third-internationalists" are included) . 
The youth organisation had a further 5,000. The communist trade- 
union committee controlled about a sixth of the 120,000 members 
who remained in the C.G.L. "When the new party daily Unitd 
appeared in February, it gained a circulation of about 25,000; 
the new Ordine Nuovo came out in March in 6,000 copies. The party 
was moderately successful in the elections, with 19 members elected 
to parliament, and it maintained its vote compared to the 192 1 



election far better than the two socialist parties. Among those 
elected was Gramsci, who returned to Italy in May. 

During the electoral campaign, the Bordiga question had once 
more exploded, when the latter refused to lead or indeed to figure 
at all on the party's electoral list. He was now in a position of 
intransigent opposition nationally as well as internationally. An 
idea of the attitude of his followers at this time (although Gramsci 
was to stress that Bordiga himself did not hold such views) can be 
gained from a conversation which took place between Humbert 
Droz and Grieco (at that time an unquestioning follower of 
Bordiga), and which Droz reported to Zinoviev on 15 February 
1924. Grieco had said: "The International and the party have an 
anti-communist line and it is the duty of certain leaders, when they 
perceive a serious deviation, to refuse to follow discipline . . . 
Certain comrades are so to speak predestined to be leaders. 
Bordiga, like Lenin, is one of these. Discipline cannot be applied 
to such men as it can to other members of the party; their historical 
mission is to apply discipline to others, not to respect it." 

In May, a few days after Gramsci's return to Italy, the P.C.I, 
held a consultative conference near Como. Three separate sets of 
theses were presented by the Left (over the signatures of Bordiga, 
Grieco, Fortichiari and Repossi), the Centre (over the signatures 
of Gennari, Leonetti, Ravera, Scoccimarro and Togliatti), and 
the Right (over the signatures notably of Tasca, Vota and Berti). 
Although it had only consultative status, the voting on these theses 
was a good index of the balance of strength in the P.C.I, at that 
moment. It showed that the Centre had a slender majority in the 
Central Committee over the Right, but that the Left — which had 
of course refused to participate in the leading bodies of the party — 
was overwhelmingly stronger than the other two factions combined 
in the party apparatus as a whole. 

The theses of the Right criticised the entire line of the P.C.I, 
since Livorno, and while welcoming the formation of the new 
Centre nevertheless held it co-responsible with the Left for that 
line. They stood on the positions of the Fourth World Congress — 
although as we shall see these were by this time in the process of 
revision, and the Right showed its awareness of this by warning 
against too wide an interpretation of the slogan of "workers' 
governments". The Centre theses, drafted by Togliatti while 
Gramsci was still in Vienna but supported by him on his return, 
took the position that the old leadership had been right to struggle 
against the minority, but wrong to oppose the line of the Fourth 



Congress. They rejected the Rome Theses, and accepted a limited 
interpretation of the united front. As Zinoviev was shortly to do at 
the Fifth World Congress, they defined social-democracy as the 
"left wing of fascism". They saw "workers' governments" as a 
mobilising slogan useful for convincing the more backward sections 
of the masses that the conquest of power was on the agenda, but 
warned against the illusion that there must be intermediate phases 
before the installation of the proletarian dictatorship — indeed they 
stated that "the existence of a regime of permanent armed dictator- 
ship opens up for Italy a period of 'permanent revolution' "; 
they defined fascism as "the armed dictatorship of a fraction of 
the capitalist bourgeoisie and the big landowners". The Left 
presented a much shorter set of theses simply reaffirming the correct- 
ness of the Rome Theses and of the entire line followed by the 
party since Livorno, accusing the Comintern of placing false hopes 
in the P.S.I, and stressing the dangers of the united front and 
workers' government slogans. 

The entire situation in the party was referred to the Fifth World 
Congress which took place in the following month. It was still not 
certain what leadership solution the Comintern would decide on. 
However, a great deal had changed in the party in the preceding 
months. Bordiga's attitude by now was that only a change in the 
line of the Comintern as a whole would make it possible for the 
Left to participate once more in the party leadership; he regarded 
the new Centre as having succumbed to Tasca, and felt that the 
Right was the logical leadership in view of current Comintern 
strategy. The Right, on the other hand, no longer had a monopoly 
in urging the acceptance of Comintern policy in full ; moreover, as 
we shall see, in the wake of the German events the tide was running 
against it in the International. In addition, Tasca himself to some 
extent drew nearer to the Centre from mid-March 1924 onwards, 
in the course of his collaboration with Togliatti at the head of the 
party; furthermore, for a number of reasons (including personal 
ones) he was anxious to withdraw for a time from leadership 
responsibilities, and in fact resigned from the Executive in April. 

Thus the Centre was in fact in a much stronger position than it 
looked at Como; over the next years it absorbed Tasca and most 
of the Right, and defeated the Left within the party organisation as 
a whole, winning over not only its rank and file but also many of 
its leaders — such as Grieco in 1925. The new conception of the 
party itself and the distinctive strategy within Italy which Grams ci 
had begun to formulate in his exchange of letters with Togliatti, 



Terracini and the others in early 1924 were in sharp contrast to 
what had gone before. But the decisive factor in the change of 
leadership between 1923 and 1924 was undoubtedly international — 
both in the particular sense of attitudes to, and the role played by, 
the Comintern, and, more importantly, in the wider sense of the 
way in which the relation between the national and international 
dimensions of revolution was conceived. In the crucial letter of 
9 February already referred to, Gramsci wrote: "Amadeo . . . 
thinks that the tactic of the International reflects the Russian 
situation, i.e. was born on the terrain of a backward and primitive 
capitalist civilisation. For him, this tactic is extremely voluntaristic 
and theatrical, because only with an extreme effort of will was it 
possible to obtain from the Russian masses a revolutionary activity 
which was not determined by the historical situation. He thinks 
that for the more developed countries of central and western 
Europe this tactic is inadequate or even useless. In these countries 
the historical mechanism functions according to all the approved 
schemas of Marxism : there exists the historical determinism which 
was lacking in Russia, and therefore the over-riding task must be 
the organisation of the party as an end in itself. I think that the 
situation is quite different. Firstly, because the political conception 
of the Russian communists was formed on an international and 
not on a national terrain; secondly, because in central and western 
Europe the development of capitalism has determined not only the 
formation of broad proletarian strata, but also and as a consequence 
has created the higher stratum, the labour aristocracy with its 
appendages of trade-union bureaucracy and the social-democratic 
groups. The determination, which in Russia was direct and drove 
the masses into the streets for a revolutionary uprising, in central 
and western Europe is complicated by all these political super- 
structures, created by the greater development of capitalism; this 
makes the action of the masses slower and more prudent, and 
therefore requires of the revolutionary party a strategy and tactics 
altogether more complex and long-term than those which were 
necessary for the Bolsheviks in the period between March and 
November 1917. But the fact that Amadeo has this conception, 
and that he seeks to achieve its victory not merely on a national 
scale but also internationally, is one thing: he is a convinced man, 
and struggles with great skill and great elasticity to obtain his 
objective, to avoid compromising his theses, to postpone any 
Comintern sanctions which might prevent him from continuing 
until the historical period in which the revolution in western and 



central Europe deprives Russia of the hegemonic position it holds 
today. But that we, who are not convinced of the historical truth 
of this conception, should continue to ally ourselves with it politically 
and thereby give it the international status which it at present 
enjoys is quite another thing. Amadeo approaches things from the 
viewpoint of an international minority, but we must approach 
things from the viewpoint of a national majority." 

The P. CI. under Gramsci 1924-26 

The two years in which Gramsci led the P.C.I, can be seen as 
closing an epoch: the epoch opened by the October Revolution 
in which individual communist parties elaborated their theoretical 
analyses and their strategies in terms of one basic premise — the 
actuality of the revolution. This is not, of course, to suggest that 
many communists did not thereafter, notably during the "third 
period", believe that revolution was on the immediate agenda. 
"What it does mean is that from early in 1924 Comintern policies 
and Comintern politics had become increasingly bound up with 
the struggle in the Russian party, and by 1927 Russian develop- 
ments became the determining factor. 

Thus 1924—26 was a transitional phase, and it is extremely 
important to stress the room for manoeuvre still remaining in this 
period to an individual party such as the P.C.I. The coincidence 
between Comintern strategy and that of the Italian party after the 
Fifth World Congress in June 1924 was not simply a question of 
cause and effect; it was rather a question of a somewhat tactical 
"left" turn by the Comintern meshing in with the pre-existing 
"leftism" of the P.C.I. This is made quite clear by subsequent 
events. For in the spring of 1 925 the Comintern was to reverse its 
"left" turn — after the fall of Macdonald in Britain and Herriot 
in France, the rise to power of Hindenburg in Germany and the 
repression of the K.P.D., the new consolidation of Mussolini's 
regime in Italy, and the reactionary turn of events in Poland and 
in Estonia — and speak of the temporary stabilisation of capitalism. 
Yet there was no corresponding rightward turn in the line of the 
Italian party, which was to undergo no significant modifications 
until after Gramsci's arrest. Perhaps part of the reason for the 
freedom of manoeuvre which this reveals — despite the bolshevisation 
of the communist parties in this same period — was the extremely 
complex power relations in the Comintern at this time. Zinoviev 
was President of the International throughout this period; in 1924 



he was allied to Stalin and attacking Trotsky for his "anti-peasant" 
policies; by 1926 he was allied to Trotsky and attacking Stalin 
and Bukharin for their "pro-peasant" policies. From early in 1925 
a Bukharinist Right began to emerge within the Comintern, and 
it was particularly significant for the Italian party that Humbert- 
Droz — already mentioned as the Comintern representative in Italy 
during 1 924, and as a close associate of Tasca during that period — 
returned to Moscow in 1925 to take charge of the Latin section 
of the International ; Droz was to establish excellent relations with 
Bukharin, and fall with him in 1929. The upshot of this complex 
situation seems to have been that Zinoviev on the one hand and 
the Bukharinist Right on the other effectively cancelled each other 
out for this period, with the result that it was possible for "leftist" 
policies in countries like Germany and Italy to coexist with 
"rightist" policies in countries like China, the United States, 
Britain or Yugoslavia. In each case, the determining factors were 
national rather than international. 

This periodicity is of crucial importance in understanding the 
basic political coordinates of Gramsci's writings in prison. These 
have an organic continuity with the political universe within which 
Gramsci had operated prior to his arrest; they manifest a radical 
disjuncture from the political universe which existed by the time 
that they were written. This is perhaps a major reason for the 
opacity and oblique character of some of the central political 
reflections in the Prison Notebooks, on the revolution in the West, 
on the party, on the State, etc. And it is certainly the major reason 
for the inappropriateness of many of the attempts that have been 
made to interpret Gramsci in terms of criteria which had no meaning 
in his political universe: popular frontism, Stalinism, etc. Any 
theorisation of Gramsci's work must seek to set it firmly in its true 
historical context, and must seek to explain all, and not merely 
some, of its sometimes contradictory elements. 

As has already been mentioned, after the Como conference it had 
been decided to refer the leadership situation in the Italian party to 
the forthcoming Fifth World Congress, due to begin in Moscow in 
late June 1924. The Italian delegates included Bordiga, Togliatti, 
Terracini, Tasca, Serrati, Grieco, Leonetti and Berti, all of whom 
arrived in Moscow early in the month. (Gramsci and Scoccimarro, 
however, had not yet left Italy when the Matteotti crisis broke out 
on June 12, and consequently cancelled their departure.) The 
strategies defined at the first four World Congresses can be inter- 
preted as responses to the actual course of historical events — at 



least in Europe. The "left" turn which followed the German 
October of 1923, on the other hand, and which was reflected at 
the Fifth World Congress, can only be understood in terms of the 
inner-party struggle which had already broken out in the Soviet 
Union, and in terms of Zinoviev's manoeuvring to shift the blame 
for the German disaster. 

In the last months of 1923 Zinoviev and Stalin had launched the 
campaign against "Trotskyism", the Forty Six had published their 
platform, and Trotsky had published his New Course articles. In 
October, the German party led by Brandler had been involved in 
an abortive attempt at an insurrectionary uprising. The rising was 
planned in Moscow by Zinoviev, and liaison between Moscow and 
the K.P.D. was entrusted personally to Radek. After the defeat, 
Zinoviev made Brandler the scapegoat for the entire affair, and 
Trotsky — who had believed in the possibility of a revolution in 
Germany — -joined forces with Radek — who had not — to defend 
Brandler from carrying sole responsibility. Zinoviev backed the Left 
inside the German party — led by Fischer and Maslov — and they 
replaced Brandler. The latter was accused of rightism, and Zinoviev 
took the lead in swinging the Comintern decisively to the left. 
These manoeuvres were designed principally to prevent the German 
disaster being used by the Russian opposition to discredit Zinoviev 

Battle lines had been drawn publicly, and at the Fifth Congress 
the Russian majority leaders were above all preoccupied with 
preventing the opposition from winning international allies. The 
obvious candidate to lead an international fraction in support of 
the Russian opposition was Bordiga — in spite of the fact that 
Trotsky had led the attack on the latter's rejection of the united 
front at the Fourth Congress and on his espousal of the "theory of 
the offensive" at the Third. For there was an obvious convergence 
between Bordiga's views on the degeneration of the Comintern and 
Trotsky's on the degeneration inside the Bolshevik party. Zinoviev 
sought to prevent such an alliance by incorporating Bordiga into 
the Comintern leadership with the post of vice-president. He saw 
a bloc between the Centre and the Left as the best solution to the 
P.C.I.'s internal divisions, and as a consequence of the tactical 
shift to the left which he had made after the German defeat no 
longer viewed Tasca and the Right with the same favour. 

However, these plans shipwrecked on the rocks of Bordiga's 
intransigence. He was prepared to accept a post on the Comintern 
Executive, since he needed to maintain international contacts in 



view of his perspective of organising an international Left minority 
faction; but he refused any leadership position within the P.C.I. 
Paradoxically, the Fifth Congress at one and the same time shifted 
the line of the International substantially onto the positions which 
Bordiga had been defending — united front from below, struggle on 
two fronts against fascism and against social-democracy, etc. (the 
line which the Gramsci leadership was to follow for the next two 
years) , and at the same time it saw Bordiga's definitive isolation in 
organisational terms. Bordiga gave the main Congress report on 
fascism, and there was little argument with the equal stress which 
he laid on the struggle against fascism and that against social- 
democracy; Togliatti too spoke of social-democracy as the left wing 
of fascism, and differed from Bordiga more on questions of emphasis 
than on those of substance — stressing the need to make the P.C.I, 
a mass party, the need for more work among the peasantry, etc. 
Zinoviev, summing up the work of the Congress, spoke of two 
possible alternatives for capitalism in the era of its "irremediable 
crisis": "The Social-Democrats from the right wing of the labour 
movement are in a process of transition and more and more 
becoming converted into the left wing of the bourgeoisie, and in 
places, into a wing of fascism. This is the reason that it is historically 
incorrect to speak of the 'victory of fascism over social democracy'. 
Fascism and social democracy (so far as their leaders are concerned) 
are the right and left hands of modern capitalism, which has been 
somewhat weakened by the first imperialist war, and in the first 
battles of the workers against capitalism. Whatever Mussolini and 
Poincare do on the one hand, or Macdonald and Herriot on the 
other, favour proletarian revolution. Whether they take the road 
of 'democracy' or that of fascism is of little consequence. They are 
all of them merely carrying water to the mill of the proletarian 
revolution." (See note 70 on p. 169.) This expressed very exactly 
Bordiga's view. However, he still preferred to remain in opposition 
within the P.C.I. Therefore, when a new Central Committee and 
Executive were nominated by a special commission at the close of 
the Congress, the Centre was given a majority on both bodies, 
with minority representation for the Right and for the "third- 
internationalists" who now became formally members of the party. 
The new executive was made up of Gramsci, Togliatti and 
Scoccimarro from the Centre, Mersu from the Right (Tasca did 
not want the post but was in the new C.C.), and the ex-third- 
internationalist socialist Mafn. Two months later Gramsci was 
elected to the new post of secretary-general of the party. 



The Fifth World Congress on the surface represented a shift to 
the left, and since the analyses which it formulated corresponded 
broadly to those of both Centre and Left in the P.C.I, it definitively 
healed the rift between the Italian party and the International. 
But what was Gramsci's real estimate of its significance, and what 
explains the substantial shift in his international positions, notably 
on Russia itself, between the spring of 1924 and the spring of 1925? 
Some answer, even if a necessarily incomplete one, is essential to 
understanding certain of the key passages in the Prison Notebooks. 

In February 1924, Gramsci had written: "Just as I did not 
believe a year ago that the International was moving to the right . . . 
I do not believe today that it is moving to the left." He rejected 
the simple explanation for the German debacle offered by Zinoviev, 
i.e. that Brandler was a rightist; Gramsci described Brandler's 
strategy in 1923 as if anything putschist, and dismissed the question 
of which of the two contending factions in the German party — the 
Brandler/Thalheimer pre-October leadership, or Zinoviev's pro- 
teges Fischer and Maslov who replaced them after the defeat — was 
"right" and which "left" as "a rather Byzantine question". More- 
over, he was at this time broadly sympathetic to the outlook of 
the Left in the Russian party. He wrote: "It is well known that in 
November 19 17, while Lenin and the majority of the party had 
gone over to Trotsky's view and intended to take over not merely 
political power but also economic power, Zinoviev and Kamenev 
remained in the traditional party view and wanted a revolutionary 
coalition government with the Mensheviks and Social-Revolu- 
tionaries ... In the recent polemic which has broken out in Russia, 
it is clear that Trotsky and the opposition in general, in view of 
the prolonged absence of Lenin from the leadership of the party, 
have been greatly preoccupied about the danger of a return to the 
old mentality, which would be damaging to the revolution. Demand- 
ing a greater intervention of proletarian elements in the life of the 
party and a diminution of the powers of the bureaucracy, they 
want basically to ensure the socialist and proletarian character of 
the revolution and to prevent a gradual transition to that democratic 
dictatorship — carapace for a developing capitalism — which was 
still the programme of Zinoviev and Co. in November 191 7. This 
seems to me to be the situation in the Russian party . . . the only 
novelty is the passage of Bukharin to the Zinoviev, Kamenev, Stalin 

However, from the spring of 1924 onwards there was increasing 
pressure on communist parties to align themselves with the majority 


in the Russian party. From the passages quoted it is clear that N 
Gramsci did not personally accept the version of the Russian inner- 
party struggle which was disseminated in Comintern circles at this 
time. But four main, inter-related factors combined to determine a 
substantial alignment with the successive dominant groups within 
the Russian party from this period onwards — an alignment which 
by 1926 at least was not merely tactical but based on conviction. 
In the fi rst place, the terms of the struggle in Russia were filtered 
through to foreign communists via a Comintern apparatus which 
was henceforward increasingly itself an instrument of that struggle. 
Secondly, Gramsci made the healing of the breach with the Comin- 
tern and a full acceptance of international discipline the very 
foundation of the new Centre leadership and its basic difference 
with Bordiga. Thirdly, the issues of the Russian oppositions and the 
Left in the Italian party became inextricably mixed in the mid- 
twenties. The stances adopted by Trotsky and by Bordiga both 
raised analogous questions with regard to party discipline and the 
formation of fractions. Moreover, for a period — from 1925 to 1930 — 
Bordiga aligned himself with Trotsky internationally; it became 
impossible for the Italian party to discuss Russian questions without 
reference to its own internal situation. Lastly, Gramsci's strategy in 
Italy was increasingly directed towards the Southern peasantry, and 
concerned with the forging of a worker-peasant alliance. In 1 926, 
he saw the positions of the Joint Opposition in Russia as a threat 
to the latter. These four factors combined, in an often contradictory 
way as we shall see, to determine Gramsci's change of position; the 
contradictions are reflected in the Prison Notebooks. 

Gramsci's return to Italy from Vienna in May 1 924 preceded by 
less than a month the outbreak of the Matteotti crisis on 12 June. 
When the social-democratic leader was assassinated by fascist 
thugs, the regime seemed suddenly vulnerable and internally 
divided; its backers appeared to waver; and the opposition gained 
confidence. The first months of Gramsci's leadership saw a new 
room for manoeuvre for the party, and a considerable growth in 
its strength. Yet the crisis did not go so deep as the communist 
leaders thought, and the remaining two years of the P.C.I.'s open 
existence in Italy were to be a long defensive action against quite 
overwhelming odds. 

As early as 192 1-2, Gramsci had opposed the prevalent view in 
the Italian party that a fascist or military dictatorship was 
impossible. According to his own account, he had prevented such 
a view being incorporated in the Rome Theses. However, as we 



have already indicated, even he did not achieve in the years which 
followed a consistent or adequate appreciation of the fascist phe- 
nomenon — indeed it would have been impossible at that time to 
foresee the full potentialities of fascism as a new and sui generis 
form of bourgeois reactionary rule. Even before the Matteotti 
crisis broke out, in the spring of 1924 he was already writing of 
the possibility of a social-democratic "alternative" replacing 
fascism. He was critical of Bordiga for underestimating the internal 
contradictions of Italian capitalism and for believing that the 
specific forms of bourgeois rule were irrelevant and that the only 
perspective was one of .a crisis of the capitalist system and the 
revolutionary upsurge and mass swing to communism which this 
crisis would necessarily entail. When Matteotti was murdered, and 
the regime appeared unconfident and divided, Gramsci became 
more than ever convinced that a social-democratic alternative was 
imminent, and that this would put proletarian revolution once 
more on the immediate agenda. 

It is easy to see the similiarities as well as the differences between 
Gramsci's and Bordiga's perspectives. Both were based on a belief 
in the general crisis of the bourgeois order and in the actuality of 
the revolution. Both accepted only the united front "from below", 
and stressed the need to struggle not only against the regime itself 
but equally — or even primarily — against the social-democrats, the 
"left wing of the bourgeoisie". But whereas Bordiga saw fascism 
and social-democracy simply as two inter-changeable forms of 
bourgeois rule, rejected the notion that whether one form or the 
other happened to be adopted by Italian capitalism could be of 
any consequence to the P.C.I., and foresaw a direct replacement 
of the existing regime by the dictatorship of the proletariat, Gramsci's 
conception was a less reductionist one. He had always analysed 
fascism in terms of its social base, and he saw its disintegration in 
terms of the detachment of sections of this base — above all the 
urban petite bourgeoisie. He thought that a social-democratic 
"alternative" would be a short-lived and inherently unstable 
transitional phase — analogous to the Kerensky regime in the Soviet 
Union — and that it would quickly lead to a period of civil war, 
for which the proletariat must be prepared; but he also thought 
that initially the fall of fascism might see an increase of support 
for the social-democratic organisations. 

After Matteotti's murder, the opposition parties left parliament 
and met in an alternative assembly on the Aventine. Although the 
P.C.I, at first participated in this, its attitude to the other anti- 



fascist parties remained unchanged. At a Central Committee 
meeting in mid-July, Scoccimarro argued that there were two 
possible outcomes to the crisis; either the most intransigent wing 
of fascism would take over and instal a yet more dictatorial regime, 
or there would be an agreement between the fascists and the 
opposition parties. Gramsci agreed with this assessment, and stressed 
that fascism could not possibly be overthrown except by mass 
struggle. In another Central Committee meeting the following 
month, Gramsci recognised that the democratic opposition parties 
remained the axis of popular anti-fascism, but emphasised that they 
must be combated for that very reason. He described the Aventine 
opposition as "semi-fascist". Underlying these positions was the 
belief that fascism was disintegrating, and that the real forces of 
the bourgeois State would pass over to the opposition — which was 
therefore the main danger. In Gramsci's view, the P.C.I.'s strategy 
in this situation must be an all-out attempt to capture the majority 
of the proletariat, and he picked out the creation of factory com- 
mittees as the key immediate objective. 

To resume Gramsci's perspective in this period, he did reject 
both the ultra-left view that there could be no transition whatever 
between fascism and the dictatorship of the proletariat (a view 
which was to characterise the third period), and the rightist view 
that communist aims should be limited for the moment to the 
struggle against fascism and the restoration of bourgeois democracy 
and that the fight against the social-democrats should therefore be 
suspended — implying that there would be a stable period of transi- 
tion between fascism and the proletarian revolution (a view which 
was to characterise the period from 1927 to 1928). But within 
these two extremes, there was still considerable room for error, and 
it seems undeniable that Gramsci and the other P.C.I, leaders did 
seriously underestimate the strength and possibilities for internal 
development of the fascist regime. 

The whole history of the P.C.I, in its remaining two years of 
semi-legal existence was marked by this failure of appreciation 
(which was in Gramsci's own case almost certainly one of the main 
factors in his decision to remain in Italy until he was arrested). 
The return of the P.C.I, deputies to parliament in November 1924 
was inspired by a concern to expose the Aventine opposition in the 
event of the collapse of fascism which the party expected. Any idea 
of a united front other than "from below" was still rejected. When 
the fascists finally struck back in January 1925, and Mussolini's 
speech assuming responsibility for the Matteotti murder was 



followed by a new wave of repression, this was seen by the party as 
a mere episode. A compromise between fascism and the opposition 
was still confidently expected. (It should be stressed that the other 
opposition parties had an equally mistaken assessment of the true 
situation; the Aventine parties issued a statement at this time 
which declared "The moral battle has already been won"!). 

P.C.I, membership at the end of 1924 had risen to about 25,000, 
and a legal apparatus of sections and federations was re-created side 
by side with the clandestine cells during the months following 
Matteotti's death. It was still an overwhelmingly working-class 
party, still firmly believing in the inevitability of the world defeat 
of capitalism in the wake of the October Revolution. Every strengthen- 
ing of repression was taken as a sign of ruling-class weakness. It 
must be emphasised that the Left still dominated the party organisa- 
tion as a whole. In the elections for new federation committees 
which took place between September and December 1924, Bordiga 
still controlled the majority of federations, and the most important 
ones: Turin, Milan, Rome, Naples to name only the largest. But, 
the leadership too broadly shared the view that had been so succinctly 
expressed by Bordiga earlier in the year: "the bourgeois counter- 
revolution for us is the proof of the inevitability of the revolution". 

Up to this time, the inner-party struggle in the Soviet Union 
had hardly impinged at all on the internal situation in the P.C.I. 
In the theses prepared for the Como conference — which had taken 
place in the aftermath of the first open phase of the conflict which 
opposed Zinoviev, Kamenev and Stalin to Trotsky and to the 
Forty Six — Bordiga and the Left had remained silent on the Russian 
question; Togliatti and the Centre had expressed general support 
for the majority in the Bolshevik party while stressing the need 
for detailed knowledge of the issues involved; only Tasca and the 
Right had raised the question in a substantive fashion, and had 
attacked Trotsky for endangering the unity of the Bolshevik leader- 
ship — in line with Zinoviev's presentation of the issue. It is true 
that during the conference itself, Gramsci was to draw the first 
analogy between the attitudes of Trotsky and Bordiga respectively 
to party discipline. But this analogy was not to be repeated again 
until the following year. 

At the Fifth World Congress, the Russian inner-party struggle 
had been temporarily at a halt, at least on the surface; but it had 
been reopened when Trotsky published his Lessons of October in the 
autumn of 1924. It was after this that Bordiga began to align 
himself internationally with Trotsky — an alignment which was to 



last intermittently up to 1 930, and which was to lead Gramsci and 
the other P.C.I, leaders to view the Russian party struggle to a 
very great extent in terms of their own conflict with Bordiga. The 
P.C.I, in fact first discussed the Russian question in a Central 
Committee meeting of February 1925, after Trotsky had made a 
declaration of discipline; in the following years, of course, events 
in Russia were to have a growing importance for the P.C.I. 

The type of contradictions to which the assimilation of Bordiga 
and Trotsky was to lead was revealed dramatically in the course of 
this first discussion in February 1925. Bordiga had taken up some 
theses put forward by Trotsky in a speech on "Perspectives of 
World Development" the previous July, on the subject of the 
growing strength of American capitalism and its increasing 
hegemony over Europe. Gramsci attacked these in the following 
terms: "We reject these predictions which, by deferring the revolu- 
tion indefinitely, would shift the entire tactics of the Communist 
International — which would have to go back to propagandistic and 
agitational activity among the masses. Moreover, they would shift 
the tactics of the Russian State since, if the European revolution is 
deferred for an entire historical period, if in other words the Russian 
working class for a long period of time is to be unable to count 
on the support of the proletariat of other countries, it is evident 
that the Russian revolution must be modified." The issues pre- 
sented by Gramsci were real ones — Stalin had formulated his 
theory of "Socialism in One Country" for the first time only a few 
weeks earlier — but clearly the protagonists of the debate were 
reversed in Gramsci's presentation! (Incidentally, this discussion 
was probably the origin of Gramsci's subsequent interest in the 
specific character of American capitalism, developed notably in the 
notes on "Americanism and Fordism" — see pp. 277-318.) 

But even at this Central Committee meeting, the main focus of 
the discussion was not any such theoretical issue, but the problem 
of fractions within the party; it was in terms of this that the analogy 
between Bordiga and Trotsky was most frequently drawn in the 
following years. This was the period of bolshevisation of the com- 
munist parties, and their closer alignment with the Russian party. 
In May at a Central Committee meeting Gramsci spoke of 
bolshevisation as a Leninist stabilisation of the communist parties, 
and defined Bordigism as a provincial tendency to refuse incor- 
poration in a world organisation. (Bordiga, for his part, had long 
characterised Gramsci's strategy as a provincial tendency to view 
the problem of revolution in exclusively national terms.) Earlier, 



in March/ April, at the important Fifth Enlarged Executive meeting 
of the Comintern at which the Fifth Congress strategy was redefined 
in a decisively "right-wing" sense, Stalin had put direct pressure on 
Scoccimarro to include an attack on Trotsky in his prepared speech 
on bolshevisation and the struggle against Bordiga. Bordiga himself 
had in February submitted an article in defence of Trotsky for 
publication in Unita. The question of fractionism in general, of the 
struggle against Bordiga in particular, and the question of Trotsky 
were now inextricably intertwined. 

During the rest of 1925, events in Russia had less direct reper- 
cussions in Italy. Bordiga's article and Scoccimarro's Moscow 
speech on Trotsky were published by Unita in July, but without 
any accompanying discussion. In any case, during this period 
Trotsky had withdrawn from the inner-party struggle in the Soviet 
Union, and it was the dissensions between Stalin and Bukharin 
on the one hand and Zinoviev and Kamenev on the other which 
were now fast emerging. Gramsci always resisted the tendency 
current by that time in the Comintern to reduce substantive dis- 
agreements to simple factional disputes. In this period, the Comin- 
tern was generally following the lead given by Zinoviev at the 
Fifth Enlarged Executive meeting already referred to, in assimilating 
left and right oppositions as "right opportunist". Gramsci never 
accepted this type of crude amalgam, and continued to speak of 
right and left tendencies as two separate entities. When a date 
was announced for the forthcoming Third Congress of the party, 
he suggested that the pre-congress discussion could be a valuable 
opportunity for general reflection — not only on the internal state 
of the party, but on more fundamental problems of the worker- 
peasant alliance, etc. 

But the situation was not one which allowed such calm, non- 
factional discussion. The process of bolshevisation was inexorably 
eroding the strength of the Left in the party. A number of factors 
contributed to this process: the Left's conflict with the Comintern 
and rejection of the latter's discipline; its leader's self-imposed 
isolation and refusal to accept posts of responsibility in the party; 
Gramsci's inner-party activity, especially among the youth; the 
new intake of militants who had joined the party in the period 
following Matteotti's murder; the influence inevitably exerted by 
the group at the centre which ran the party organisationally. It 
was hardly a surprise when in June the Left reacted to this loss 
of its support by openly organising as a fraction, and forming the 
Comitato d'Intesa — quickly condemned by both the party executive 



and the Comintern, and dissolved after an ultimatum from the 
latter. The fact that the formation of this committee happened to 
coincide with a new wave of fascist repression damaged the Left 
yet further. By the time the Third Congress of the party finally 
took place at Lyons in January 1926, the Centre controlled 90 per cent 
of the party. A total reversal of the respective strengths of the Left 
and the Centre had taken place in the eighteen months since Como. 
It was not surprising that the Lyons Congress thus took place in 
an atmosphere envenomed by bitter accusations of fractionism on 
the one hand, of undemocratic practices in the name of "bolshevi- 
zation" on the other. 

Throughout 1925, the fascist regime intensified the dictatorial 
character of its rule. The P.C.L's traditional view equating fascism 
and social-democracy was not abandoned, but it now began to be 
accompanied by a new awareness of fascism as a unifier of the 
ruling class and expression of its interests. "Fascism has given back 
to the bourgeoisie a class consciousness and class organisation", 
wrote Gramsci in February; at about the same time he wrote to 
Julia in Moscow that it was no longer possible to expect "any 
very imminent end to fascism as a regime . . .". But if anything 
the P.C.L moved farther to the left under the impact of the new 
repression. Gramsci continued to speak of the need to liquidate the 
P.S.I, and its hold over the masses, and it was with this aim that 
the party campaigned around the slogan of "Worker and peasant 
committees". But now, in addition, Gramsci spoke of the need to 
"put on the agenda . . . the preparation for an insurrection. Recent 
political events mark the beginning of a phase in which insurrection 
has become the sole means for the masses to express their political 

In April 1925, Togliatti was arrested; however, he was amnestied 
in June of the same year. In August, while preparations were being 
made for the party to go underground again completely, the party 
secretariat was discovered and Terracini arrested. The main focus 
of P.C.I, activity by now was the struggle for trade-union autonomy. 
In October, the employers' federation signed a pact with the fascist 
"corporations" (fake trade unions), in which the latter were given 
sole bargaining rights, and the commissioni interne were suppressed. 
The C.G.L. was by now reduced to a shadow of what it had once 
been, and its reformist leaders were already preparing to dissolve it 
entirely — although this did not prevent them from fighting a 
bitter factional struggle against the communists inside the unions. 
The strategy of the P.C.I, was a two-pronged one: to build up auto- 



nomous factory committees, and to defend C.G.L. independence 
so that "the trade-union movement will be reborn under our 
control", as Gramsci put it. It was at this point that a new disagree- 
ment with Tasca arose in the Central Committee, on an issue 
which was to become very important the following year. For 
Tasca criticised the whole attempt to stimulate the formation of 
autonomous factory committees, outside the established trade-union 
structure (it was substantially the same disagreement which had 
arisen in 1919-20), and called for an initiative towards the P.S.I, 
and an attempt to reach agreement with the reformist C.G.L. 
leaders for common action to defend the remnants of trade-union 

In November 1925, the opposition press was finally crushed and 
brought under fascist control, with the partial exception of the 
socialist and communist organs, Avanti! and Unita, which were per- 
mitted a continued semi-legal existence. Although by the end of 
1 925 the communist leaders did cease speaking of the possibility 
of compromise between fascism and the constitutional opposition, 
they neither made any distinction between anti-fascist struggle and 
the socialist revolution, nor did they revise their judgement on the 
P.S.I, as the last bastion of bourgeois reaction; they were to continue 
throughout 1926 to resist efforts which the Comintern now began 
to make to persuade them to pursue a serious united front policy. 
During the autumn of 1925, arrests of communists continued 
steadily, and the party was compelled to reorganise itself almost 
completely during this period in which it was preparing for its 
Third Congress — which had been postponed after Terracini's 
arrest, but was now scheduled to take place at Lyons in January 
1926. It was something of an achievement that during 1925 the 
P.C.I, maintained its membership under extremely difficult con- 
ditions; by the end of the year it had some 27,000 members, largely 
organised in cells. However, to a considerable extent it had lost 
working-class members as a result of the repression, and had com- 
pensated for this by increased recruitment among the peasantry. 

By the end of 1925, the party leaders were coming to recognise 
that the situation was indeed a qualitatively new one, and Gramsci 
began now to formulate a new strategic conception which he was 
to develop in the Congress Theses and in his 1926 essay on the 
Southern Question. The basic elements of this new conception were 
as follows : fascism had successfully united the Italian ruling class ; but 
economic contradictions could not be resolved, and would progres- 
sively tend to detach the middle strata — especially in the South — 



from the fascist bloc; this perspective meant that the alliance 
between northern proletariat and southern peasantry must be seen 
in new terms. At a Central Committee meeting in November 1925, 
Gramsci said: "In Italy the situation is revolutionary when the 
proletariat in the North is strong; if the proletariat in the North is 
weak, the peasants fall in behind the petite bourgeoisie. Conversely, 
the peasants of southern Italy represent an element of strength and 
revolutionary stimulus for the workers in the North. The northern 
workers and the southern peasants are thus the two immediate 
revolutionary forces (the southern peasants are 80 per cent con- 
trolled by the priests) to which we must devote all our attention. . . 
If we succeed in organising the southern peasants, we will have 
won the revolution; at the moment of the decisive action a transfer 
of the armed forces of the bourgeoisie from North to South to 
confront the insurrection of the southern peasantry allied to the 
northern proletariat will afford the workers greater possibilities for 
action. Our general task is therefore clear: organise the workers of 
the North and the southern peasants and forge their revolutionary 
alliance." And indeed, the two focuses of communist action in 
the last period of its semi-legal existence in Italy were the creation 
of base organisations in the factories and greatly intensified work 
among the peasantry. 

The Lyons Congress saw the last major challenge by the Left inside 
the P.C.I. The main issues of the pre-congress discussion were bol- 
shevisation and relations with the International. The platform of the 
Left turned on opposition to bolshevisation, especially to reorganisa- 
tion on the basis of factory cells which it saw as creating a basis for 
a new corporativism, and on a condemnation of what it claimed was 
the "tacticism" of the Centre leadership; it laid the responsibility 
for the emergence of fractionism at the door of the leadership and 
of the Comintern. Gramsci and the Centre, on the other hand, 
violently attack the Left's "fractionism", and argued that bolshevisa- 
tion should be seen as the construction of a real world communist 
party and that opposition to it was the result of provincial residues. 
The Centre's Congress Theses, published in October and drafted 
by Gramsci with the collaboration of Togliatti, give the most 
complete resume of the leadership's analysis and strategy in this 
last period of semi-legal existence. The theses repudiated the entire 
socialist tradition in Italy prior to Livorno, and stressed the quali- 
tative novelty introduced by the October Revolution and Leninism. 
(This was in marked contrast to the Bordigan view, expressed in 
the Rome Theses of 1922, that the P.C.I, was the continuer of the 



intransigent left tradition within the P.S.I., and that Lenin had 
resuscitated the true Marxism rather than adding anything new.) 
The theses went on to reaffirm that no revolution was possible in 
Italy other than a proletarian revolution to overthrow capitalism; 
to characterise the ruling-class bloc of northern industrialists and 
southern landowners ; to analyse the role of the proletariat — which 
was compared with that of pre-revolutionary Russia, numerically 
small but advanced and highly concentrated, and whose strength 
was emphasised in view of the heterogenous and backward nature 
of the Italian social structure; to describe how fascism, whose 
original base had been in the urban petite bourgeoisie and the 
rural bourgeoisie, had become the tool of the capitalist class. The 
period was defined as one of preparation for revolution; stress was 
laid on the internal contradictions of fascism, which might lead 
to its imminent collapse, and also on inter-imperialist contradic- 
tions, notably between the United States and Britain, which made 
war not unlikely. The theses went on to formulate the concept of 
an alliance between the northern proletariat and the southern 
peasantry, and to define the anti-fascist opposition forces as so many 
links in a chain of reaction stretching from fascism to the P.S.I. 
The idea that any post-fascist democratic phase was possible was 
rejected; any transitional phase would be brief and unstable, and 
lead quickly to the outbreak of civil war. Lastly, the united front 
was given the most narrow possible definition, as merely a means 
for unmasking the reformists. 

The Lyons Congress itself lasted for a week, and an extremely 
hard-hitting discussion ranged over the entire experience of the five 
years of the party's existence. Gramsci's main report lasted four 
hours, Bordiga's reply lasted seven! The congress was dominated 
by the ideological conflict between the Centre leadership and the 
Left, which invested every aspect of analysis, tactics and strategy. 
Yet significantly enough, when the disagreements with Tasca also 
came up in the discussion of trade-union strategy and the factory 
committees (and it must be remembered that the Right had not 
existed as a tendency since the Fifth World Congress, but had been 
effectively absorbed by the new leadership), the response of the 
Centre — Gramsci and Scoccimarro in particular — revealed a 
hostility as great as that shown towards the Left. Gramsci spoke 
of "a rightist conception, connected to the desire not to clash too 
seriously with the reformist trade-union bureaucracy which strenu- 
ously opposes any organisation of the masses". We have already 
sufficiently stressed the elements of continuity between the Left and 



Centre leaderships not to need to emphasise that the differences 
between Gramsci and Tasca were just as fundamental as those 
between Gramsci and Bordiga. Moreover, in view of the depth of 
these differences, it says much for the type of leadership exercised 
by Gramsci that he made every effort to ensure that the tendencies 
within the party should all be represented in the party's leading 
bodies. And this time he succeeded in persuading Bordiga to join 
the Central Committee, together with another representative of 
the Left. Tasca too remained on the C.C., and a new executive — 
shortly to be renamed the Political Committee — consisting of 
Gramsci, Terracini (freed from prison shortly after the Congress), 
Togliatti, Scoccimarro, Camilla Ravera, Ravazzoli and Grieco 
was appointed. Togliatti, a month after the Congress, was sent to 
Moscow as P.C.I, representative to the Comintern. 

There had been no discussion of the Russian question at the 
Lyons Congress. This was the moment when the conflict between 
Stalin and Bukharin on the one hand and Zinoviev, Kamenev and 
Krupskaya on the other hand had just exploded at the Fourteenth 
Congress to the Bolshevik Party in December 1925; Trotsky had 
been silent for almost a year, and it was only in April 1926 that 
he was to join forces with Zinoviev and Kamenev. But almost 
immediately after Lyons, the Sixth Enlarged Executive Committee 
meeting took place in Moscow, and inevitably the new inner-party 
struggle in Russia formed its background. Zinoviev was of course 
still President of the Comintern, and it had become essential for 
Stalin and Bukharin to prevent him from using the international 
organisation as a power base. The Central Committee of the Russian 
party therefore requested the other national sections of the Comin- 
turn not to carry the discussion of the Russian question into the 
ranks of the International. However, they had not reckoned with 

The Italian delegation was headed by Togliatti, and included 
Grieco, Gennari, Berti, Bordiga and several others. When the 
delegation met before the Congress to discuss the draft theses 
presented by Zinoviev, Bordiga declared that Russia was faced 
with two possible perspectives : advance towards socialism, or failure 
to continue this advance. He stated that the International had the 
duty to analyse these possibilities, and that the individual national 
sections could and should intervene. This meant of course direct 
defiance of the Russian Central Committee's request, and the 
Italian delegates — after Bordiga had left the meeting — decided to 
ask the Russian party for information on the Russian situation. 



The next day a new meeting of the Italian delegates was arranged 
with Stalin. According to Berti, Bordiga had meanwhile had a long 
meeting with Trotsky. At all events, a prolonged and violent 
confrontation took place; — to the considerable embarrassment of the 
other Italian delegates — between Stalin and Bordiga, in which the 
latter's questions ranged from the attitude taken up by Stalin 
towards the provisional government in 1 9 1 7 prior to Lenin's return 
to the current policies being followed in the Soviet Union towards 
the middle peasantry. The next day, at the plenary session of the 
Congress, Bordiga made the sole oppositional speech. Lasting four 
hours, it was the most extended expression of his analysis of the 
relation between the Russian revolution, the International and the 
revolution in the West. "We were told: we only have one party 
which has achieved a victorious revolution, and that is the Russian 
Bolshevik Party. Therefore we must follow the path which led the 
Russian party to victory. That is quite true, but it is not sufficient. 
The Russian party fought in special conditions, that is to say in a 
country in which the feudal aristocracy had not yet been defeated 
by the capitalist bourgeoisie. It is necessary for us to know how to 
attack a modern democratic bourgeois State which, on the one 
hand, has its own means of corrupting and misleading the prole- 
tariat, and, on the other hand, can defend itself on the terrain of 
armed struggle more effectively than the Tsarist autocracy was 
able to do. This problem does not figure in the history of the 
Russian Communist Party . . . We are told that the correct solution 
is ensured by the leading role of the Russian party. But there are 
reservations to be made on that score. What is the leading factor 
within the Russian party itself? Is it the Leninist old guard? But 
after the recent events it is clear that this old guard can be divided. 
. . . The correct solution lies elsewhere. It is necessary to base 
ourselves on the whole International, on the whole world proletarian 
vanguard. Our organisation is like a pyramid and must be so, 
because everything must flow from the individual sectors towards 
a common summit. But this pyramid is balanced on its summit, 
and is too unstable. It must be turned the other way up . . . Given 
that the world revolution has not yet developed in other countries, 
it is necessary for Russian policy to be worked out in the closest 
relation to the general revolutionary policy of the proletariat . . . 
The basis for this struggle is certainly, and primarily, the Russian 
working class and its communist party, but it is essential also to 
base ourselves on the proletariat in the capitalist countries and on 
its class awareness — which is the result of its living relationship with 



the class enemy. The problem of Russian politics will not be resolved 
within the closed field of the Russian movement; the direct con- 
tribution of the entire communist proletarian International is 
necessary". We quote the speech at some length both because it 
gives some idea of the stature of Bordiga (he was almost the 
principal protagonist of the Congress; hardly a speech did not take 
up one or other of his arguments), and also because of the parallel 
between its thesis on the difference between the revolution in Russia 
and that in the West and some of Gramsci's most important prison 
reflections. The episode also presaged a new phase in the Italian 
inner-party struggle. For whereas Bordiga declared during the 
discussion that "The history of Lenin is the history of fractions", 
Togliatti was now explicit that in his view "The most serious danger 
is the danger of the extreme Left". 

During the summer of 1926 the Joint Opposition, formed in 
April, suffered its first major defeat in July, over the Anglo-Soviet 
Trade-union Committee, and Zinoviev was excluded from the 
Politburo. Togliatti, working closely with Humbert Droz during 
this period in Moscow, was subjected to constant pressure by Droz 
and Bukharin to work for a shift in the P.C.I.'s "left" line, especially 
in the trade-union field. He was won over to their positions in 
April — and this fact was to assume its full significance after Gramsci's 
arrest, when Togliatti became effective leader of the party. (In 
the same month, Togliatti put forward the somewhat Machiavellian 
proposal in the Latin secretariat of the Comintern that Trotsky 
should be invited to wrfce a polemical article against Bordiga, and 
Tasca another against the Right in the French party, as contribu- 
tions to the struggle against left and right deviations.) But in Italy, 
the party leadership did not modify its attitude towards the trade 
unions — whose reformist leaders were in fact to accede to the 
fascist request to dissolve the C.G.L. formally only a few months 
later — throughout the year. 

After the Enlarged Executive meeting, the P.C.I, respected the 
request of the Russian party not to intervene in, or comment upon, 
its internal struggle. When the July measures were taken against 
the Joint Opposition, Unita merely published a brief note — perhaps 
by Gramsci — supporting the disciplinary measures taken, but limit- 
ing its comment to the issue of fractionism and not entering into 
the substance of the discussion. However, in September Togliatti 
indicated from Moscow that the ban on discussion of the Russian 
question should be considered as no longer valid, and Gramsci 
published a series of polemical articles (directed against fascist 



newspaper accounts) which, although not intervening directly in 
the Russian debates, did represent a full expression of support for 
the majority in the Russian party. In particular, he wrote: "It 
is inevitable that in the mass of the peasantry there should appear 
differences, and that rich and middle peasants should arise; but 
the very fact that the former will always be a small minority means 
that their interests will clash with those of the mass of poor peasants 
and wage-earners. Their political influence will not therefore 
become dangerous, since the alliance between the poor peasants 
and the workers will be reinforced by these very developments." 
There is no question that Gramsci accepted the view of the majority 
in the Russian party that the line defended by the Joint Opposition 
would endanger the alliance of workers and peasants, and indeed he 
said as much in the famous letters which he wrote in early October, 
just before his arrest, on behalf of the P.C.I. Executive to the Russian 
Central Committee. 

In the first of these two letters, Gramsci expressed the party 
leadership's official support for the Stalin/Bukharin majority in the 
Russian party, and accepted the majority's view that the Joint 
Opposition was endangering the alliance of workers and peasants 
and that it had been guilty of fractional activity. At the same 
time, however, Gramsci expressed the Italian party's fears about 
the course which the Russian inner-party struggle was taking, and 
stressed that "unity and discipline cannot be mechanical and 
coercive; they must be loyal and the result of conviction, and not 
those of an enemy unit imprisoned or besieged — thinking all the 
time of how to escape or make an unexpected counter-attack." In 
the second letter, Gramsci replied with very considerable acerbity 
to the reasons put forward by Togliatti in Moscow for not trans- 
mitting the P.C.I.'s first letter to the Russian Central Committee 
to whom it was addressed, dismissing these reasons as "vitiated by 
bureaucratism", etc. He wrote with very great eloquence of the 
importance of "the Leninist line" which "consists in struggling for 
the unity of the party, and not merely for external unity but for 
the rather more profound kind which involves there not being 
inside the party two political lines which diverge on every question". 
He expressed his pessimism about the chances of the Bolshevik Party 
in fact being able to maintain the unity which he saw as being so 
important an element of its strength. Once again, he stressed that 
the P.C.I.'s original letter had been "a whole indictment of the 

In 1926, the last margin of semi-legality remaining to the P.C.I. 



was progressively reduced, until in early November the fascist jaws 
finally closed on the remnants of opposition which had been 
allowed to exist until then. The year was a crucial one in the 
evolution of fascism, and it was now, under the impact of growing 
economic contradictions, that the basis of the corporate State and 
of the interventionist economic policies which were to characterise 
the regime in the thirties was first laid. The P.C.I., and notably 
Gramsci, were gradually coming to formulate a more coherent and 
sophisticated analysis of the regime and the contradictory social 
forces which supported it than they had previously held. But even 
so, the fundamental line did not alter. In October, the party 
executive could still issue a directive which said: "the problem of 
the P.S.I, for us is part of the more general problem of reorganising 
the industrial proletariat which our party has set itself. The maxi- 
malist party is a factor of disorganisation and disorientation of the 
masses : it represents a negative element of the situation which will 
have to be superseded and eliminated." Moreover, in August 
Tasca still felt it necessary to write to Gramsci that "The present 
economic crisis does not find at the helm of State a politically 
oscillating petit-bourgeois stratum, an easy prey to panic when 
faced with a situation of such seriousness; it finds a well-defined 
capitalist group, homogeneous, endowed with a political experi- 
ence . . . The typical feature of the present period . . . remains . . . 
the direct taking over of the State apparatus by big capital, and 
the latter's decisive and commanding role in government policy". 
Tasca, characteristically, drew pessimistic conclusions of the type 
which caused Gramsci to consider him a "liquidator"; but, in the 
summer of i g26, his pessimism can hardly be regarded as unjustified. 

On 31 October 1926, an alleged attempt was made on Mussolini's 
life by a 15-year-old boy; it was taken as the pretext for a new 
wave of repression. The Council of Ministers met on 5 November and 
drafted a series of emergency laws, to be debated in parliament 
on the 9th, which were designed to eliminate the remaining 
vestiges of bourgeois democracy in Italy. The party laid plans 
for Gramsci's escape to Switzerland, but he was unwilling to leave. 
Newspaper reports had led him to believe that only the Aventine 
deputies were in danger of losing their parliamentary immunity, 
and he decided, as a communist deputy, to participate in the 
debate on the new laws. He still almost certainly believed that the 
internal contradictions of the Italian ruling class were such as to 
make unlikely the total elimination of such residual obstacles to 
the regime as still remained. Moreover, it should be remembered 



that nobody in the party could have predicted either the twenty-year 
sentences that the communist leaders were now to receive, nor more 
importantly that the fascist regime had anything approaching such 
an extended future ahead of it. But the principal reason for 
Gramsci's refusal to leave Rome when his arrest must have seemed 
almost certain was reported by Camilla Ravera to Togliatti: 
"Antonio . . . observed that such a step should only be taken when 
the workers could see for themselves that it was absolutely justified 
and necessary; that leaders ought to remain in Italy until it became 
quite impossible for them to do so". In an "autobiographical note" 
written in prison, Gramsci confirms this: "The rule has been made 
that a captain must be the last to abandon his vessel in a ship- 
wreck; that he must leave only when everybody else on board is 
safe. Some have even gone so far as to claim that in such cases 
the captain 'must' go down with his ship. Such assertions are less 
irrational than it might seem. Certainly, there may be certain cases 
in which there is no reason why the captain should not save himself 
first. But if such cases were made the basis for a rule, what guarantee 
would there be that a captain had done everything: (i) to prevent 
the shipwreck from occurring; (2) once it had occurred, to reduce 
human and material losses (material losses which represent future 
human losses) to a minimum? Only the 'absolute' rule that, in 
case of shipwreck, the captain is the last to leave his ship, and 
indeed may die with her, can provide this guarantee. Without it, 
collective life would become impossible; for nobody would be 
prepared to accept responsibility or continue activity which involved 
putting their lives in the hands of others." 


Since Gramsci's arrest effectively isolated him from events in the 
outside world, we shall only give the briefest sketch of developments 
in the P.C.I, and the Comintern thereafter. In 1927 and 1928, 
the party was reduced to a tiny core of dedicated militants working 
underground — perhaps 6,000 in 1927 and fewer still in successive 
years until the lowest point was reached in 1934, when membership 
was probably (according to Comintern estimates) about 2,500. The 
leadership was now in exile, and in 1927 and 1928 — the years of 
Bukharin's dominance in the Comintern — its nucleus consisted of 
Togliatti, Grieco and Tasca. A left opposition emerged in these 
years, centred on the youth organisation and its leaders 
Longo and Secchia, on positions which adumbrated those of the 
"third period". In ig2g came the left turn in Russia and the 



International, and the crushing of Bukharin and the Right. Tasca, 
the P.C.I, representative in Moscow, opposed it and was expelled 
from the P.C.I, in the autumn; Togliatti and Grieco were won 
over to the positions of Longo and the youth (causing Bordiga 
reportedly to exclaim: "the party is coming back to me"). In place 
of the slogans of 1927-8 — "popular revolution" against fascism; 
the "transitional phase" which would follow the popular revolution ; 
the "republican assembly" which should be the intermediate 
objective — the leadership now spoke of the rising tide of revolution 
in Italy, the imminent fall of fascism, the disappearance of the 
social base for reformism, the impossibility of any transition between 
fascism and the dictatorship of the proletariat; in accordance with 
these theses, they proposed in March 1930 to move the party 
centre back to Italy. 

In late 1929 an opposition emerged inside the Political Com- 
mittee. Three of its tight members — Leonetti, Tresso and Ravazzoli 
— claimed that the change of line from the "right" line symbolised 
by Tasca to the "left" line as propounded by Longo was oppor- 
tunistic, and that a serious self-criticism was required. However, 
the position of the "three" was not a very strong one tactically, 
since it involved simultaneously demanding self-criticism for the 
previous right line and opposing the change to the new left line. 
The situation came to a head in connection with the proposal to 
move the party centre back to Italy. The "three" — who were in 
fact responsible respectively for the underground party organisa- 
tion, for the clandestine press, and for communist trade-union 
work (the C.G.L. had been dissolved by its reformist leaders, and 
reconstituted under communist leadership as a clandestine organisa- 
tion) — opposed this as suicidal, and counter-proposed a plan to 
build up the underground organisation of a less voluntarist kind. 
The "three" were narrowly defeated, and soon after established 
contact with Trotsky (by now on Prinkipo) — for which they were 
expelled. The whole experience of the left turn was a disastrous 
one for the Italian party. The leadership was shattered; of the 
eight members of the 1928 Political Committee, five were expelled 
by 1931 (Tasca, the "three", and Silone — who was a moral and 
political casualty of the period). Bordiga too, still formally a 
member of the Central Committee although in prison, was expelled 
in 1930. In addition, the militants sent back to Italy as part of the 
new policy were arrested almost to a man or woman, and member- 
ship inside the country as we have mentioned was reduced to 
miniscule proportions by 1934, at tne enc ^ of the "left" period. 



After Gramsci's arrest, he was taken to the island of Ustica off 
the north coast of Sicily. The six weeks he spent in detention there 
were the last in which he enjoyed a relative freedom of movement 
and of extended contact with other militants. Among his fellow- 
prisoners was Bordiga, and the two collaborated in organising 
education courses for the political detainees. Gramsci taught 
history and geography and studied German: Bordiga was in 
charge of the scientific side. But on 20 January 1927, Gramsci 
was transferred to Milan. The journey lasted nineteen days, with 
the prisoners being transported — most of the time in chains — 
from prison to prison the length of the peninsula. Afler over a 
year in Milan, where he was kept in almost permanent isolation, 
punctuated only by the appearance of specially planted agents 
provocateurs to share his cell, and with no facilities for reading or 
writing other than of a' limited number of personal letters, he was 
brought back to Rome to stand trial. 

The trial, which began on 28 May 1928, was planned as a 
political showpiece. A special tribunal had been created to judge 
Gramsci, Terracini, Scoccimarro and twenty other defendants. 
The prisoners were accused of organising an armed insurrection. 
Legal arguments or evidence were largely irrelevant — the regime 
had decided that a conviction was necessary, to be followed by 
exemplary punishment. "For twenty years we must stop this brain 
from functioning", declared the Public Prosecutor, pointing to 
Gramsci. Sentence was passed on 4 June: twenty-two years for 
Terracini, who had been the main spokesman for the prisoners; 
twenty each for Gramsci, Scoccimarro and Roveda, and similarly 
severe sentences for the other defendants. 

On 19 July, after another nightmare journey, Gramsci arrived at 
the prison of Turi, in the heel of Italy about twenty miles from 
Bari, in a state of near collapse from illness and exhaustion. This 
was to be his home for the next five and a half years, until his 
worsening health compelled a transfer to a prison clinic at Formia. 
It was here in Turi, from February 1929 onwards, that he set to 
work on his Prison Notebooks. Conditions in Turi were slightly 
better then they had been in Milan, if only because he was allowed 
to write and to receive books (if not as many as, or all those which, 
he would have wished), and because he had a limited contact with 
his fellow-prisoners. On the other hand, his health was worse and 
he must already have been preoccupied with the thought, however 
he might try to conceal it from himself, that he might not survive 
to the end of his prison term. To exacerbate his other sufferings, 



there were the unexplained silences of Julia, who spent much of 
these years in Moscow clinics with a series of nervous illnesses. 
However, Julia's elder sister Tatiana had settled in Italy, and was 
able to offer him some of the support which she knew that Julia 
was unable to give, and to send him regular news of Julia herself 
and their two children. 

When Gramsci's strength permitted, he read voraciously, any- 
thing he was allowed to receive. Access to Marxist texts was 
restricted by prison censorship, and he was forced to supplement 
his reading of the originals by reference to commentaries and 
critiques. Many of the passages from Marx which occur in the 
philosophical and economic sections of the Quaderni coincide with 
those quoted by Benedetto Croce in his Materialismo storico ed 
economia marxistica. When he could not read books he read magazines 
and periodicals, thus keeping in touch with cultural developments 
while at the same time using his reading as material for a critique 
of bourgeois idiocy and of the confusion and backwardness of 
Italian intellectual life under fascism. He wrote copiously, filling 
his notebooks systematically in a small, crabbed and curiously 
precise hand, transcribing quotations and practising translations as 
well as developing his own thoughts. 

He also wrote letters, to immediate friends and relations — to 
Tatiana, to Julia, to his children (the younger of whom was born 
after his arrest and whom he was never to see) and to his mother 
and sisters in Sardinia. These letters are an extraordinary document 
of human tenacity, and are justifiably reckoned one of the classics 
of modern Italian literature. Occasionally querulous, more often 
resigned, they rarely lapse into self-pity but instead are buoyed 
up constantly by an urgent desire to communicate information, 
ideas, projects or simply affection. Most striking of all is the sense 
they give of continuing perseverance in the face of deprivation and 
appalling physical suffering. Temperamentally introverted and 
inclined towards stoicism, Gramsci had little to rely on except 
force of will and the knowledge of belonging, even during this 
period of impotence and isolation, to a revolutionary movement. 
It was for this latter reason above all that, when in prison, he 
obstinately refused any privilege or .special treatment that could 
possibly imply recognition of dependence on favours granted by 
the regime, but instead fought tooth and nail for his exact legal 
rights as a political prisoner. 

The one moment in those prison years when we know that 
Gramsci both had some knowledge of political developments out- 



side the prison (other than what he could obtain from the fascist 
press) and some possibility of political discussion was in the second 
half of 1930. In July, his brother Gennaro had visited him, and on 
Togliatti's instructions had informed him of the opposition of the 
"three" and their expulsion the month before. Gennaro reported 
to Togliatti that Gramsci had been in full agreement with the 
measures taken against the "three"; but years later in the sixties 
he told Fiori, Gramsci's biographer, that he had lied to save his 
brother from any possible condemnation by the party for "oppor- 
tunism", and that in fact Gramsci had considered the opposition 
of the "three" to the left turn fully justified. This account tallies 
with the report sent to the party centre in 1933 by a communist 
who had been a fellow-prisoner of Gramsci's — Athos Lisa. Accord- 
ing to Athos Lisa, violent discussions had arisen between the 
political prisoners in Turi — during their daily hour of exercise — 
after Gramsci had criticised the "left" turn, the policy of "frontal 
attack", and the elements of maximalism and underestimation of 
the strength of the fascist regime which it involved. The discussions 
had gone on for some time, with a majority of prisoners agreeing 
with Gramsci, and a minority, of whom Lisa was one, supporting 
the official line of the time. Among the themes outlined by Gramsci 
in the course of the discussion, according to Lisa, were the following: 
1. the conception of the party as the organic intellectuals of the 
proletariat, indispensable if the latter is to win power; 2. the need 
for a military organisation capable of taking on the power of the 
bourgeois State — but a military organisation conceived of not in 
narrowly technical terms, but in essentially political ones; 3. the 
importance of the intermediate slogan of a "constituent assembly", 
as first a means of winning allies for the proletariat in its struggle 
against the ruling class, and subsequently as a terrain on which to 
struggle against "all projects of peaceful reform, demonstrating to 
the Italian working class how the only possible solution in Italy 
resides in the proletarian revolution"; 4. the need to replace the 
old Fifth World Congress slogan of the "worker and peasant 
government" by that of a "republic of worker and peasant Soviets 
in Italy" ; 5. the definition of fascism as a specific form of bourgeois 
reaction, characterised by the increasing predominance within it of 
finance capital, but whose origins are to be sought in certain specific 
features of Italian historical development — the absence of a genuine 
bourgeois revolution (implying not that a bourgeois revolution 
remained to be completed in Italy, but that fascism itself was the 
distorted Italian form of bourgeois revolution) ; the lack of class 



unity of the bourgeoisie ; the weight of the Catholic Church — and 
whose immediate background was the "parallelism of forces" 
following the First World War, with both the fundamental classes, 
the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, too divided to defeat the other ; 
6. the existence of all the objective conditions for a conquest of 
power by the proletariat, but the imperative urgency — as a pre- 
condition for such a conquest of power — of realising the proletariat's 
hegemony over the peasantry. 

It is therefore not surprising that Gramsci's letters from prison 
reveal a sense of isolation that was more than simply a physical 
one — but compounded terribly both by political preoccupations 
and by anxiety about Julia. Increasingly, Gramsci was forced back 
into himself. Much of the time, particularly towards the end of his 
stay in Turi, he was too ill even to read or write. Hunchbacked, 
sickly, having suffered at least three major breakdowns of his 
health even when he was free and able to enjoy medical attention 
and maintain a special diet, his years in prison were literally an 
eleven-year death-agony. His teeth fell out, his digestive system 
collapsed so that he could not eat solid food, his chronic insomnia 
became permanent so that he could go weeks without more than 
an hour or two of sleep at night; he had convulsions when he vomited 
blood, and suffered from headaches so violent that he beat his 
head against the walls of his cell. It is against this background that 
the achievement of the Prison Notebooks should be seen. When first 
arrested he had written to Tatiana: "I am obsessed by the idea 
that I ought to do something/ar eivig ... I want, following a fixed 
plan, to devote myself intensively and systematically to some subject 
that will absorb me and give a focus to my inner life." His first 
concern was to resist, to find a means of reacting against the 
transformation of his existence that imprisonment entailed — the 
switch from participation in a collective enterprise to isolation and 
the danger of self-abandonment, from day-to-day struggle to a 
perspective that must needs be a long-term one, from the optimism 
of the will that is essential to any political activity to what must 
often during Gramsci's imprisonment have come very near to 
despair. The greatest danger for any political prisoner is that under 
the impact of his new situation the very reasons for his past struggle 
and his present plight will come to lose their validity for him. 
Gramsci once wrote — commenting on some lines of poetry by a 
certain Bini which said: "Prison is so finely-wrought a file, that, 
tempering one's thought, it makes of it a style" — "Was Bini really 
in prison? Perhaps not for long. Prison is so finely-wrought a file 



that it destroys thought utterly. It operates like the master craftsman 
who was given a fine trunk of seasoned olive wood with which to 
carve a statue of Saint Peter; he carved away, a piece here, a 
piece there, shaped the wood roughly, modified it, corrected it — and 
ended up with a handle for a cobbler's awl." Clearly, from the 
beginning of his imprisonment, Gramsci decided that his struggle 
was not ended. His most eloquent, and stark, vision of the new 
nature of that struggle is a note which he entitled "A Dialogue". 
"Something has changed, fundamentally. This is evident. What is 
it ? Before, they all wanted to be the ploughmen of history, to play 
the active parts, each one of them to play an active part. Nobody 
wished to be the 'manure' of history. But is it possible to plough 
without first manuring the land? So ploughmen and 'manure' are 
both necessary. In the abstract, they all admitted it. But in practice? 
Manure for manure, as well draw back, return to the shadows, into 
obscurity. Now something has changed, since there are those who 
adapt themselves 'philosophically' to being 'manure', who know 
this is what they must be and adapt themselves. It is like the 
problem of the proverbial dying man. But there is a great difference, 
because at the point of death what is involved is a decisive action, 
of an instant's duration. Whereas in the case of the manure, the. 
problem is a long-term one, and poses itself afresh at every moment. 
You only live once, as the saying goes; your own personality ia 
irreplaceable. You are not faced abruptly with an instant's choice 
on which to gamble, a choice in which you have to evaluate the 
alternatives in a flash and cannot postpone your decision. Here 
postponement is continual, and your decision has continually to be 
renewed. This is why you can say that something has changed. 
There is not even the choice between living for a day as a lion, 
or a hundred years as a sheep. You don't live as a lion even for 
a minute, far from it: you live like something far lower than a 
sheep for years and years and know that you have to live like that. 
Image of Prometheus who, instead of being attacked by the eagle, 
is devoured by parasites. The Hebrews produced the image of Job. 
Only the Greeks could have imagined Prometheus, but the Hebrews 
were more realistic, more pitiless, and their hero more true to life." 

As news of Grarnsci's condition filtered through to the outside 
world, an international campaign was mounted in anti-fascist 
circles to demand his release. The campaign, organised notably by 
Piero Sraffa, a long-standing friend of Grarnsci's now living in 
England, was at least partially successful. At the end of 1933, 
Gramsci was transferred from Turi to a clinic at Formia, a small 



town midway between Rome and Naples. The transfer was an 
urgent medical necessity. In the last year at Turi illnesses had taken 
grip of his entire organism, and he was slowly but inexorably being 
killed by lack of medical attention. At Formia he began gradually 
to recover somewhat, and was able to resume work on the notebooks. 
Despite his perilous condition, however, and in contravention of 
the fascist penal code itself, he was still held as a prisoner; his 
room had been specially converted as a prison cell, and he was 
harassed by brutal supervision. 

The transfer to Formia had, in any case, come too late to save 
him. Renewed international pressure ensured that he was at least 
granted provisional liberty, in accordance with his constitutional 
rights, although in point of fact this meant no more than that the 
bars were removed from his window and that he was allowed to 
go for walks. Eventually, in August 1935, he was moved to a 
proper clinic, the "Quisisana" in Rome. He was now suffering from 
arterio-sclerosis, from a tubercular infection of the back known as 
Potts disease and from pulmonary tuberculosis, and was subject to 
high blood-pressure, angina, gout and acute gastric disorders. His 
prison sentence, less remissions, was due to expire on 21 April 1937, 
after which, if his health permitted, he hoped to retire to Sardinia 
for convalescence. But when the time came he was too ill to move 
from the clinic, and on 27 April he died. Tatiana, while making 
the funeral arrangements, managed to smuggle the thirty-three 
notebooks out -of Gramsci's room and via the diplomatic bag to 
Moscow. They had been "the focus to my inner life", and the 
continuation in Gramsci's prison cell of his life as a revolutionary. 

* * * 

Some apology is perhaps needed for the unbalanced and schematic 
character of this introduction, and for its inevitable lacunae. We 
decided from the outset that there should be no attempt to offer 
any general interpretation of Gramsci's Prison Notebooks themselves, 
or any attempt to discuss the significance of his thought within 
Marxism as a whole. Gramsci has perhaps suffered more than any 
Marxist writer since Lenin from partial and partisan interpretation, 
both by supporters and opponents; the Prison Notebooks themselves, 
read seriously and in all their complexity, are the best antidote to 
this. We also felt that, given limited space, we should avoid 
duplicating what already exists in English — notably the biographies 
of Fiori and Cammett. Other gaps — particularly a fuller account 



of the economic, political and social conflicts in Italy in the early 
twenties, and of the part played in them by anti-fascist forces 
other than the P.C.I. — will be filled when a selection of Gramsci's 
early writings is published. We felt that it was indispensable to 
give priority to the central political experience of Gramsci's life as 
a revolutionary — to the class struggle in Turin, to the formation 
of the Italian Communist Party, to the rise and consolidation of 
fascism, to the strategic debates which took place in the P.C.I, 
and in the Comintern in those years. It is this central political 
experience, of course, that Gramsci was least able to write openly 
about in prison, with the result that those passages of the Notebooks 
where he discusses fascism, or communist strategy, are necessarily 
opaque and allusive. In order to have a basis from which to interpret 
these passages, it is essential to understand the political experience 
upon which the Prison Notebooks are a comment and of which they 
are the fruit. In a more general sense, too, the entire intellectual 
enterprise represented by the Notebooks can only be evaluated in 
relation to Gramsci's prior political experience; and only a grasp 
of that experience makes it possible to distinguish between the 
development and the critical reappraisal of earlier views. 

We have tried to convey something of the calibre of the leaders 
of the P.C.I, in its first years, a calibre perhaps unmatched in any 
other of the Third International parties at the time. We have tried 
to show that none of them had a monopoly of correct positions ; 
indeed, how could they have, when the party was formed after the 
defeat of the revolutionary upsurge which followed the October 
Revolution and the World War, and when its foundation was 
followed within two years by the fascist seizure of power — so that 
its experience was in fact one of long and bitterly fought defensive 
action, against overwhelming odds? We have tried to show that 
Tasca had a more realistic appreciation than either the Left or the 
Centre of the full significance of fascism, and that Bordiga had a 
fuller and earlier awareness than either the Centre or the Right of 
the implications for individual communist parties of events in 
Russia and in the International generally. We have also tried to 
show how Gramsci, in the brief period in which he led the P.C.I., 
successfully combated the maximalism, sectarianism and economism 
of Bordiga and the pessimism, "liquidationism" and culturalism of 
Tasca, while seeking to develop a genuinely Leninist political practice 
— both in terms of intra-party norms and of responsiveness to the 
spontaneous activity of the masses. Both Bordiga and Tasca failed 
to understand the dialectical relation between vanguard party and 



mass spontaneity : Bordiga saw the party as an elite which must above 
all guard itself against any contamination of its "pure" principles. 
Tasca, on the other hand, never understood the qualitative difference 
between the Leninist party and the parties of the Second International. 
Moreover, both were united in their suspicion of the factory 
councils in 1919-20. Gramsci's strategy, in contrast, turned entirely 
on the creation of autonomous class organisations of the proletariat 
and peasantry — in continuity with the conceptions of Ordine Nuovo, 
but now in dialectical relation with a vanguard party which alone 
could organise the taking of power and fight for revolution within 
the class organisms. This is the background against which the 
Prison Notebooks must be read. 






The central argument of Gramsci's essay on the formation of the 
intellectuals is simple. The notion of "the intellectuals" as a distinct 
social category independent of class is a myth. All men are potentially 
intellectuals in the sense of having an intellect and using it, but 
not all are intellectuals by social function. Intellectuals in the 
functional sense fall into two groups. In the first place there are the 
"traditional" professional intellectuals, literary, scientific and so on, 
whose position in the interstices of society has a certain inter-class 
aura about it but derives ultimately from past and present class 
relations and conceals an attachment to various historical class 
formations. Secondly, there are the "organic" intellectuals, the 
thinking and organising element of a particular fundamental social 
class. These organic intellectuals are distinguished less by their 
profession, which may be any job characteristic of their class, than 
bv their function in directing the ideas and aspirations of the class 
to which they organically belong. 

The implications of this highly original schema bear on all aspects 
of Gramsci's thought. Philosophically they connect with the 
proposition (p. 323) that "all men are philosophers" and with 
Gramsci's whole discussion of the dissemination of philosophical 
ideas and of ideology within a given culture. They relate to Gramsci's 
ideas on Education (pp. 26-43) m their stress on the democratic 
character of the intellectual function, but also on the class character 
of the formation of intellectuals through school. They also underlie 
his study of history and particularly of the Risorgimento, in that the 
intellectuals, in the wide sense of the word, are seen by Gramsci 
as performing an essential mediating function in the struggle of 
class forces. 

Most important of all, perhaps, are the implications for the 
political struggle. Social Democracy, following Kautsky, has 
tended to see the relationship between workers and intellectuals in 
the Socialist movement in formal and mechanistic terms, with the 
intellectuals — refugees from the bourgeois class — providing theory 
and ideology (and often leadership) for a mass base of non- 
intellectuals, i.e. workers. This division of labour within the move- 
ment was vigorously contested by Lenin, who declares, in What is 
to be Dory, that in the revolutionary party "all distinctions as 



between workers and intellectuals . . . must be obliterated". Lenin's 
attitude to the problem of the intellectuals is closely connected with 
his theory of the vanguard party, and when he writes about the 
need for socialist consciousness to be brought to the working class 
from outside, the agency he foresees for carrying this out is not the 
traditional intelligentsia but the revolutionary party itself, in which 
former workers and former professional intellectuals of bourgeois 
origin have been fused into a single cohesive unit. Gramsci develops 
this Leninist schema in a new way, relating it to the problems of 
the working class as a whole. The working class, like the bourgeoisie 
before it, is capable of developing from within its ranks its own 
organic intellectuals, and the function of the political party, whether 
mass or vanguard, is that of channelling the activity of these 
organic intellectuals and providing a link between the class and 
certain sections of the traditional intelligentsia. The organic 
intellectuals of the working class are defined on the one hand by 
their role in production and in the organisation of work and on the 
other by their "directive" political role, focused on the Party. It 
is through this assumption of conscious responsibility, aided by 
absorption of ideas and personnel from the more advanced bourgeois 
intellectual strata, that the proletariat can escape from defensive 
corporatism and economism and advance towards hegemony. 



Are intellectuals an autonomous and independent social group, or 
does every social group have its own particular specialised category 
of intellectuals? The problem is a complex one, because of the 
variety of forms assumed to date by the real historical process of 
formation of the different categories of intellectuals. 
The most important of these forms are two : 

I. Every social group, coming into existence on the original 
terrain of an essential function in the world of economic production, 
creates together with itself, organically, one or more strata 1 of 
intellectuals which give it homogeneity and an awareness of its own 
function not only in the economic but also in the social and political 
fields. The capitalist entrepreneur creates alongside himself the 
industrial technician, the specialist in political economy, the 
organisers of a new culture, of a new legal system, etc. It should be 
noted that the entrepreneur himself represents a higher level of 
social elaboration, already characterised by a certain directive 
[dirigente] 2 and technical (i.e. intellectual) capacity: he must have 
a certain technical capacity, not only in the limited sphere of his 
activity and initiative but in other spheres as well, at least in those 
which are closest to economic production. He must be an organiser 
of masses of men; he must be an organiser of the "confidence" of 
investors in his business, of the customers for his product, etc. 

If not all entrepreneurs, at least an elite amongst them must have 
the capacity to be an organiser of society in general, including all 
its complex organism of services, right up to the state organism, 
because of the need to create the conditions most favourable to the 

1 The Italian word here is "ceti" which does not carry quite the same con- 
notations as "strata", but which we have been forced to translate in that way for 
lack of alternatives. It should be noted that Gramsci tends, for reasons of censor- 
ship, to avoid using the word class in contexts where its Marxist overtones would 
be apparent, preferring (as for example in this sentence) the more neutral "social 
group". The word "group", however, is not always a euphemism for "class", and 
to avoid ambiguity Gramsci uses the phrase "fundamental social group" when he 
wishes to emphasise the fact that he is referring to one or other of the major social 
classes (bourgeoisie, proletariat) defined in strict Marxist terms by its position in 
the fundamental relations of production. Class groupings which do not have this 
fundamental role are often described as "castes" (aristocracy, etc.). The word 
"category", on the other hand, which also occurs on this page, Gramsci tends to 
use in the standard Italian sense of members of a trade or profession, though 
also more generally. Throughout this edition we have rendered Gramsci's usage 
as literally as possible (see note on Gramsci's Terminology, p. xiii). 

* See note on Gramsci's Terminology. 



expansion of their own class; or at the least they must possess the 
capacity to choose the deputies (specialised employees) to whom to 
entrust this activity of organising the general system of relationships 
external to the business itself. It can be observed that the "organic" 
intellectuals which every new class creates alongside itself and 
elaborates in the course of its development, are for the most part 
"specialisations" of partial aspects of the primitive activity of the 
new social type which the new class has brought into prominence.* 

Even feudal lords were possessors of a particular technical 
capacity, military capacity, and it is precisely from the moment at 
which the aristocracy loses its monopoly of technico-military 
capacity that the crisis of feudalism begins. But the formation of 
intellectuals in the feudal world and in the preceding classical 
world is a question to be examined separately: this formation and 
elaboration follows ways and means which must be studied con- 
cretely. Thus it is to be noted that the mass of the peasantry, 
although it performs an essential function in the world of production, 
does not elaborate its own "organic" intellectuals, nor does it 
"assimilate" any stratum of "traditional" intellectuals, although it 
is from the peasantry that other social groups draw many of their 
intellectuals and a high proportion of traditional intellectuals are 
of peasant origin. 4 

2. However, every "essential" social group which emerges into 
history out of the preceding economic structure, and as an expression 

* Mosca's Elementi di Scienza Politico (new expanded edition, 1923) are worth 
looking at in this connection. Mosca's so-called "political class"* is nothing other 
than the intellectual category of the dominant social group. Mosca's concept of 
"political class" can be connected with Pareto's concept of the ilite, which is 
another attempt to interpret the historical phenomenon of the intellectuals and 
their function in the life of the state and of society. Mosca's book is an enormous 
hotch-potch, of a sociological and positivistic character, plus the tendentiousness 
of immediate politics which makes it less indigestible and livelier from a literary 
point of view. 

8 Usually translated in English as "ruling class", which is also the title of the 
English version of Mosca's Elementi (G. Mosca, The Ruling Class, New York 1939). 
Gaetano Mosca (1858-1941) was, together with Pareto and Michels, one of the 
major early Italian exponents of the theory of political (lites. Although sym- 
pathetic to fascism, Mosca was basically a conservative, who saw the ilite in 
rather more static terms than did some of his fellows. 

4 Notably in Southern Italy. See below, "The Different Position of Urban and 
Rural-type Intellectuals", pp. 14-23. Gramsci's general argument, here as else- 
where in the Quademi, is that the person of peasant origin who becomes an 
"intellectual" (priest, lawyer, etc.) generally thereby ceases to be organically 
linked to his class of origin. One of the essential differences between, say, the 
Catholic Church and the revolutionary party of the working class lies in the 
fact that, ideally, the proletariat should be able to generate its own "organic" 
intellectuals within the class and who remain intellectuals of their class. 



of a development of this structure, has found (at least in all of history 
up to the present) categories of intellectuals already in existence 
and which seemed indeed to represent an historical continuity 
uninterrupted even by the most complicated and radical changes 
in political and social forme. 

The most typical of these categories of intellectuals is that of the 
ecclesiastics, who for a long time (for a whole phase of history, 
which is pardy characterised by this very monopoly) held a 
monopoly of a number of important services : religious ideology, 
that is the philosophy and science of the age, together with schools, 
education, morality, justice, charity, good works, etc. The category 
of ecclesiastics can be considered the category of intellectuals 
organically bound to the landed aristocracy. It had equal status 
juridically with the aristocracy, with which it shared the exercise 
of feudal ownership of land, and the use of state privileges connected 
with property.* But the monopoly held by the ecclesiastics in the 
superstructural field** was not exercised without a struggle or 
without limitations, and hence there took place the birth, in various 
forms (to be gone into and studied concretely), of other categories, 
favoured and enabled to expand by the growing strength of the 
central power of the monarch, right up to absolutism. Thus we 
find the formation of the noblesse de robe, with its own privileges, a 
stratum of administrators, etc., scholars and scientists, theorists, 
non-ecclesiastical philosophers, etc. 

Since these various categories of traditional intellectuals experience 
through an "esprit de corps" their uninterrupted historical continuity 
and their special qualification, they thus put themselves forward as 
autonomous and independent of the dominant social group. This 
self-assessment is not without consequences in the ideological and 
political field, consequences of wide-ranging import. The whole of 

* For one category of these intellectuals, possibly the most important after the 
ecclesiastical for its prestige and the social function it performed in primitive 
societies, the category otmedical men in the wide sense, that is all those who "struggle" 
or seem to struggle against death and disease, compare the Storia della medicina of 
Arturo Castiglioni. Note that there has been a connection between religion and 
medicine, and in certain areas there still is : hospitals in the hands of religious 
orders for certain organisational functions, apart from the fact that wherever the 
doctor appears, so does the priest (exorcism, various forms of assistance, etc.)- 
Many great religious figures were and are conceived of as great "healers" : the 
idea of miracles, up to the resurrection of the dead. Even in the case of kings the 
belief long survived that they could heal with the laying on of hands, etc. 

** From this has come the general sense of "intellectual" or "specialist" of 
the word "chierico" (clerk, cleric) in many languages of romance origin or heavily 
influenced, through church Latin, by the romance languages, together with its 
correlative "lako" (lay, layman) in the sense of profane, non-specialist. 



idealist philosophy can easily be connected with this position assumed 
by the social complex of intellectuals and can be defined as the 
expression of that social Utopia by which the intellectuals think of 
themselves as "independent", autonomous, endowed with a 
character of their own, etc. 

One should note however that if the Pope and the leading 
hierarchy of the Church consider themselves more linked to Christ 
and to the apostles than they are to senators Agnelli and Benni, 5 
the same does not hold for Gentile and Croce, for example: Croce 
in particular feels himself closely linked to Aristotle and Plato, but 
he does not conceal, on the other hand, his links with senators 
Agnelli and Benni, and it is precisely here that one can discern the 
most significant character of Croce's philosophy. 

What are the "maximum" limits of acceptance of the term 
"intellectual"? Can one find a unitary criterion to characterise 
equally all the diverse and disparate activities of intellectuals and 
to distinguish these at the same time and in an essential way from 
the activities of other social groupings ? The most widespread error 
of method seems to me that of having looked for this criterion of 
distinction in the intrinsic nature of intellectual activities, rather 
than in the ensemble of the system of relations in which these 
activities (and therefore the intellectual groups who personify them) 
have their place within the general complex of social relations. 
Indeed the worker or proletarian, for example, is not specifically 
characterised by his manual or instrumental work, but by performing 
this work in specific conditions and in specific social relations 
(apart from the consideration that purely physical labour does not 
exist and that even Taylor's phrase of "trained gorilla" 6 is a meta- 
phor to indicate a limit in a certain direction: in any physical work, 
even the most degraded and mechanical, there exists a minimum 
of technical qualification, that is, a minimum of creative intellectual 
activity.) And we have already observed that the entrepreneur, by 
virtue of his very function, must have to some degree a certain 
number of qualifications of an intellectual nature although his 
part in society is determined not by these, but by the general social 
relations which specifically characterise the position of the entre- 
preneur within industry. 

8 Heads of fiat and Montecatini (Chemicals) respectively For Agnelli, of 
whom Gramsci had direct experience during the Or dine Nuovo period, see note 
II on p. 286. 

' For Frederick Taylor and his notion of the manual worker as a "trained 
gorilla", see Gramsci's essay Americanism and Fordism, pp. 277-318 of this volume. 



All men are intellectuals, one could therefore say: but not all 
men have in society the function of intellectuals.* 

When one distinguishes between intellectuals and non- 
intellectuals, one is referring in reality only to the immediate social 
function of the professional category of the intellectuals, that is, one 
has in mind the direction in which their specific professional 
activity is weighted, whether towards intellectual elaboration or 
towards muscular-nervous effort. This means that, although one 
can speak of intellectuals, one cannot speak of non-intellectuals, 
because non-intellectuals do not exist. But even the relationship 
between efforts of intellectual-cerebral elaboration and muscular- 
nervous effort is not always the same, so that there are varying 
degrees of specific intellectual activity. There is no human activity 
from which every form of intellectual participation can be excluded : 
homo faber cannot be separated from homo sapiens.'' Each man, 
finally, outside his professional activity, carries on some form of 
intellectual activity, that is, he is a "philosopher", an artist, a man 
of taste, he participates in a particular conception of the world, has 
a conscious line of moral conduct, and therefore contributes to 
sustain a conception of the world or to modify it, that is, to bring 
into being new modes of thought. 

The problem of creating a new stratum of intellectuals consists 
therefore in the critical elaboration of the intellectual activity that 
exists in everyone at a certain degree of development, modifying its 
relationship with the muscular-nervous effort towards a new 
equilibrium, and ensuring that the muscular-nervous effort itself, 
in so far as it is an element of a general practical activity, which is 
perpetually innovating the physical and social world, becomes the 
foundation of a new and integral conception of the world. The 
traditional and vulgarised type of the intellectual is given by the 
man of letters, the philosopher, the artist. Therefore journalists, 
who claim to be men of letters, philosophers, artists, also regard 
themselves as the "true" intellectuals. In the modern world, 
technical education, closely bound to industrial labour even at the 
most primitive and unqualified level, must form the basis of the 
new type of intellectual. 

On this basis the weekly Ordine Nuovcfi worked to develop certain 

* Thus, because it can happen that everyone at some time fries a couple of 
eggs or sews up a tear in a jacket, we do not necessarily say that everyone is a 
cook or a tailor. 

' i.e. Man the maker (or tool-bearer) and Man the thinker. 

* The Ordine Jfuovo, the magazine edited by Gramsci during his days as a 



forms of new intellectualism and to determine its new concepts, 
and this was not the least of the reasons for its success, since such a 
conception corresponded to latent aspirations and conformed to the 
development of the real forms of life. The mode of being of the 
new intellectual can no longer consist in eloquence, which is an 
exterior and momentary mover of feelings and passions, but in 
active participation in practical life, as constructor, organiser, 
"permanent persuader" and not just a simple orator (but superior 
at the same time to the abstract mathematical spirit) ; from tech- 
nique-as-work one proceeds to technique-as-science and to the 
humanistic conception of history, without which one remains 
"specialised" and does not become "directive" 9 (specialised and 

Thus there are historically formed specialised categories for the 
exercise of the intellectual function. They are formed in connection 
with all social groups, but especially in connection with the more 
important, and they undergo more extensive and complex elabora- 
tion in connection with the dominant social group. One of the most 
important characteristics of any group that is developing towards 
dominance is its struggle to assimilate and to conquer "ideologically" 
the traditional intellectuals, but this assimilation and conquest is 
made quicker and more efficacious the more the group in question 
succeeds in simultaneously elaborating its own organic intellectuals. 

The enormous development of activity and organisation of 
education in the broad sense in the societies that emerged from the 
medieval world is an index of the importance assumed in the modern 
world by intellectual functions and categories. Parallel with the 
attempt to deepen and to broaden the "intellectuality" of each 
individual, there has also been an attempt to multiply and narrow 
the various specialisations. This can be seen from educational 
institutions at all levels, up to and including the organisms that 
exist to promote so-called "high culture" in all fields of science and 

School is the instrument through which intellectuals of various 
levels are elaborated. The complexity of the intellectual function in 
different states can be measured objectively by the number and 

militant in Turin, ran as a "weekly review of Socialist culture" in 1919 and 1920. 
See Introduction, pp. xxxv ff. 

* "Dirigente." This extremely condensed and elliptical sentence contains a 
number of key Gramscian ideas : on the possibility of proletarian cultural hegemony 
through domination of the work process, on the distinction between organic 
intellectuals of the working class and traditional intellectuals from outside, on the 
unity of theory and practice as a basic Marxist postulate, etc. 


gradation of specialised schools: the more extensive the "area" 
covered by education and the more numerous the "vertical" 
"levels" of schooling, the more complex is the cultural world, the 
civilisation, of a particular state. A point of comparison can be found 
in the sphere of industrial technology: the industrialisation of a 
country can be measured by how well equipped it is in the produc- 
tion of machines with which to produce machines, and in the 
manufacture of ever more accurate instruments for making both 
machines and further instruments for making machines, etc. The 
country which is best equipped in the construction of instruments for 
experimental scientific laboratories and in the construction of 
instruments with which to test the first instruments, can be regarded 
as the most complex in the technical-industrial field, with the 
highest level of civilisation, etc. The same applies to the preparation 
of intellectuals and to the schools dedicated to this preparation; 
schools and institutes of high culture can be assimilated to each 
other. In this field also, quantity cannot be separated from quality. 
To the most refined technical-cultural specialisation there cannot 
but correspond the maximum possible diffusion of primary educa- 
tion and the maximum care taken to expand the middle grades 
numerically as much as possible. Naturally this need to provide 
the widest base possible for the selection and elaboration of the top 
intellectual qualifications — i.e. to give a democratic structure to 
high culture and top-level technology — is not without its dis- 
advantages: it creates the possibility of vast crises of unemployment 
for the middle intellectual strata, and in all modern societies this 
actually takes place. 

It is worth noting that the elaboration of intellectual strata in 
concrete reality does not take place on the terrain of abstract 
democracy but in accordance with very concrete traditional 
historical processes. Strata have grown up which traditionally 
"produce" intellectuals and these strata coincide with those which 
have specialised in "saving", i.e. the petty and middle landed 
bourgeoisie and certain strata of the petty and middle urban 
bourgeoisie. The varying distribution of different types of school 
(classical and professional) 10 over the "economic" territory and the 
varying aspirations of different categories within these strata 
determine, or give form to, the production of various branches of 

10 The Italian school system above compulsory level is based on a division 
between academic ("classical" and "scientific") education and vocational training 
for professional purposes. Technical and, at the academic level, "scientific 
colleges tend to be concentrated in the Northern industrial areas. 



intellectual specialisation. Thus in Italy the rural bourgeoisie 
produces in particular state functionaries and professional people, 
whereas the urban bourgeoisie produces technicians for industry. 
Consequently it is largely northern Italy which produces technicians 
and the South which produces functionaries and professional 

The relationship between the intellectuals and the world of 
production is not as direct as it is with the fundamental social 
groups but is, in varying degrees, "mediated" by the whole fabric 
of society and by the complex of superstructures, of which the 
intellectuals are, precisely, the "functionaries". It should be possible 
both to measure the "organic quality" [organicita] of the various 
intellectual strata and their degree of connection with a fundamental 
social group, and to establish a gradation of their functions and of 
the superstructures from the bottom to the top (from the structural 
base upwards). What we can do, for the moment, is to fix two 
major superstructural "levels": the one that can be called "civil 
society", that is the ensemble of organisms commonly called 
"private", and that of "political society" or "the State". These 
two levels correspond on the one hand to the function of "hegemony" 
which the dominant group exercises throughout society and on the 
other hand to that of "direct domination" or command exercised 
through the State and "juridical" government. The functions in 
question are precisely organisational and connective. The intel- 
lectuals are the dominant group's "deputies" exercising the sub- 
altern functions of social hegemony and political government. 
These comprise : 

1. The "spontaneous" consent given by the great masses of the 
population to the general direction imposed on social life by the 
dominant fundamental group; this consent is "historically" caused 
by the prestige (and consequent confidence) which the dominant 
group enjoys because of its position and function in the world of 

2. The apparatus of state coercive power which "legally" enforces 
discipline on those groups who do not "consent" either actively or 
passively. This apparatus is, however, constituted for the whole of 
society in anticipation of moments of crisis of command and 
direction when spontaneous consent has failed. 

This way of posing the problem has as a result a considerable 
extension of the concept of intellectual, but it is the only way which 
enables one to reach a concrete approximation of reality. It also 
clashes with preconceptions of caste. The function of organising 


T 3 

social hegemony and state domination certainly gives rise to a 
particular division of labour and therefore to a whole hierarchy of 
qualifications in some of which there is no apparent attribution of 
directive or organisational functions. For example, in the apparatus 
of social and state direction there exist a whole series of jobs of a 
manual and instrumental character (non-executive work, agents 
rather than officials or functionaries). 11 It is obvious that such a 
distinction has to be made just as it is obvious that other distinctions 
have to be made as well. Indeed, intellectual activity must also be 
distinguished in terms of its intrinsic characteristics, according to 
levels which in moments of extreme opposition represent a real 
qualitative difference — at the highest level would be the creators of 
the various sciences, philosophy, art, etc., at the lowest the most 
humble "administrators" and divulgators of pre-existing, traditional, 
accumulated intellectual wealth.* 

In the modern world the category of intellectuals, understood in 
this sense, has undergone an unprecedented expansion. The 
democratic-bureaucratic system has given rise to a great mass of 
functions which are not all justified by the social necessities 
of production, though they are justified by the political necessities 
of the dominant fundamental group. Hence Loria's 13 conception of 
the unproductive "worker" (but unproductive in relation to whom 
and to what mode of production?), a conception which could in 
part be justified if one takes account of the fact that these masses 
exploit their position to take for themselves a large cut out of the 
national income. Mass formation has standardised individuals both 
psychologically and in terms of individual qualification and has 
produced the same phenomena as with other standardised masses: 
competition which makes necessary organisations for the defence of 

11 "Junzionari" : in Italian usage the word is applied to the middle and higher 
echelons of the bureaucracy. Conversely "administrators" ("amministratori") is 
used here (end of paragraph) to mean people who merely "administer" the decisions 
of others. The phrase "non-executive work" is a translation of "[impiego] di ordine 
e non di concetto" which refers to distinctions within clerical work. 

* Here again military organisation offers a model of complex gradations 
between subaltern officers, senior officers and general staff, not to mention the 
NCO's, whose importance is greater than is generally admitted. It is worth 
observing that all these parts feel a solidarity and indeed that it is the lower strata 
that display the most blatant esprit de corps, from which they derive a certain 
"conceit" 12 which is apt to lay them open to jokes and witticisms. 

11 "boria". This is a reference to an idea of Vico (see note 41 on p. 151). 

19 For Loria see note 108 on p. 458. The notion of the "unproductive labourer" 
is not in fact an invention of Loria's but has its origins in Marx's definitions of 
productive and unproductive labour in Capital, which Loria, in his characteristic 
way, both vulgarised and claimed as his own discovery. 


professions, unemployment, over-production in the schools, emigra- 
tion, etc. 


Intellectuals of the urban type have grown up along with industry 
and are linked to its fortunes. Their function can be compared to 
that of subaltern officers in the army. They have no autonomous 
initiative in elaborating plans for construction. Their job is to 
articulate the relationship between the entrepreneur and the 
instrumental mass and to carry out the immediate execution of the 
production plan decided by the industrial general staff, controlling 
the elementary stages of work. On the whole the average urban 
intellectuals are very standardised, while the top urban intellectuals 
are more and more identified with the industrial general staff 

Intellectuals of the rural type are for the most part "traditional", 
that is they are linked to the social mass of country people and the 
town (particularly small-town) petite bourgeoisie, not as yet elabor- 
ated and set in motion by the capitalist system. This type of intel- 
lectual brings into contact the peasant masses with the local and 
state administration (lawyers, notaries, etc.) . Because of this activity 
they have an important politico-social function, since professional 
mediation is difficult to separate from political. Furthermore: in 
the countryside the intellectual (priest, lawyer, notary, teacher, 
doctor, etc.), has on the whole a higher or at least a different living 
standard from that of the average peasant and consequently 
represents a social model for the peasant to look to in his aspiration 
to escape from or improve his condition. The peasant always 
thinks that at least one of his sons could become an intellectual 
(especially a priest), thus becoming a gentleman and raising the 
social level of the family by facilitating its economic life through the 
connections which he is bound to acquire with the rest of the gentry. 
The peasant's attitude towards the intellectual is double and 
appears contradictory. He respects the social position of the intel- 
lectuals and in general that of state employees, but sometimes 
affects contempt for it, which means that his admiration is mingled 
with instinctive elements of envy and impassioned anger. One can 
understand nothing of the collective life of the peasantry and of the 
germs and ferments of development which exist within it, if one 
does not take into consideration and examine concretely and in 


depth this effective subordination to the intellectuals. Every organic 
development of the peasant masses, up to a certain point, is linked 
to and depends on movements among the intellectuals. 

With the urban intellectuals it is another matter. Factory tech- 
nicians do not exercise any political function over the instrumental 
masses, or at least this is a phase that has been superseded. Some- 
times, rather, the contrary takes place, and the instrumental masses, 
at least in the person of their own organic intellectuals, exercise a 
political influence on the technicians. 

The central point of the question remains the distinction between 
intellectuals as an organic category of every fundamental social 
group and intellectuals as a traditional category. From this dis- 
tinction there flow a whole series of problems and possible questions 
for historical research. 

The most interesting problem is that which, when studied from 
this point of view, relates to the modern political party, its real 
origins, its developments and the forms which it takes. What is the 
character of the political party in relation to the problem of the 
intellectuals ? Some distinctions must be made : 

1. The political party for some social groups is nothing other than 
their specific way of elaborating their own category of organic 
intellectuals directly in the political and philosophical field and not 
just in the field of productive technique. These intellectuals are 
formed in this way and cannot indeed be formed in any other way, 
given the general character and the conditions of formation, life 
and development of the social group.* 

2. The political party, for all groups, is precisely the mechanism 
which carries out in civil society the same function as the State 
carries out, more synthetically and over a larger scale, in political 
society. In other words it is responsible for welding together the 
organic intellectuals of a given group — the dominant one — and the 
traditional intellectuals. 14 The party carries out this function in 
strict dependence on its basic function, which is that of elaborating 
its own component parts — those elements of a social group which 

* Within productive technique those strata are formed which can be said to 
correspond to NCO's in the army, that is to say, for the town, skilled and specialised 
workers and, for the country (in a more complex fashion) share-cropping and 
tenant farmers —since in general terms these types of farmer correspond more or 
less to the type of the artisan, who is the skilled worker of a mediaeval economy. 

14 Although this passage is ostensibly concerned with the sociology of political 
parties in general, Gramsci is clearly particularly interested here in the theory 
of the revolutionary party and the role within it of the intellectuals. See Intro- 
duction to this Section. 



has been born and developed as an "economic" group — and of 
turning them into qualified political intellectuals, leaders [dirigenti] 
and organisers of all the activities and functions inherent in the 
organic development of an integral society, both civil and political. 
Indeed it can be said that within its field the political party accom- 
plishes its function more completely and organically than the State 
does within its admittedly far larger field. An intellectual who joins 
the political party of a particular social group is merged with the 
organic intellectuals of the group itself, and is linked tightly with 
the group. This takes place through participation in the life of the 
State only to a limited degree and often not at all. Indeed it happens 
that many intellectuals think that they are the State, a belief which, 
given the magnitude of the category, occasionally has important 
consequences and leads to unpleasant complications for the funda- 
mental economic group which really is the State. 

That all members of a political party should be regarded as 
intellectuals is an affirmation that can easily lend itself to mockery 
and caricature. But if one thinks about it nothing could be more 
exact. There are of course distinctions of level to be made. A party 
might have a greater or lesser proportion of members in the higher 
grades or in the lower, but this is not the point. What matters is 
the function, which is directive and organisational, i.e. educative, 
i.e. intellectual. A tradesman does not join a political party in 
order to do business, nor an industrialist in order to produce more 
at lower cost, nor a peasant to learn new methods of cultivation, 
even if some aspects of these demands of the tradesman, the 
industrialist or the peasant can find satisfaction in the party.* 

For these purposes, within limits, there exists the professional 
association, in which the economic-corporate activity of the trades- 
man, industrialist or peasant is most suitably promoted. In the 
political party the elements of an economic social group get beyond 
that moment of their historical development and become agents of 
more general activities of a national and international character. 
This function of a political party should emerge even more clearly 
from a concrete historical analysis of how both organic and tradi- 
tional categories of intellectuals have developed in the context of 
different national histories and in that of the development of the 
various major social groups within each nation, particularly those 
groups whose economic activity has been largely instrumental. 

* Common opinion tends to oppose this, maintaining that the tradesman, 
industrialist or peasant who engages in "politicking" loses rather than gains, and 
is the worst type of all which is debatable. 


The formation of traditional intellectuals is the most interesting 
problem historically. It is undoubtedly connected with slavery in 
the classical world and with the position of freed men of Greek or 
Oriental origin in the social organisation of the Roman Empire. 

Note. The change in the condition of the social position of the 
intellectuals in Rome between Republican and Imperial times (a 
change from an aristocratic-corporate to a democratic-bureau- 
cratic regime) is due to Caesar, who granted citizenship to doctors 
and to masters of liberal arts so that they would be more willing 
to live in Rome and so that others should be persuaded to come 
there. ("Omnesque medicinam Romae prqfessos et liberalium artium 
doctores, quo libentitis et ispi urbem incolerent et coeteri appeterent civitate 
donavit." Suetonius, Life of Caesar, XLII.) Caesar therefore 
proposed: i. to establish in Rome those intellectuals who were 
already there, thus creating a permanent category of intellectuals, 
since without their permanent residence there no cultural 
organisation could be created; and 2. to attract to Rome the 
best intellectuals from all over the Roman Empire, thus promoting 
centralisation on a massive scale. In this way there came into 
being the category of "imperial" intellectuals in Rome which 
was to be continued by the Catholic clergy and to leave so many 
traces in the history of Italian intellectuals, such as their char- 
acteristic "cosmopolitanism", up to the eighteenth century. 

This not only social but national and racial separation between 
large masses of intellectuals and the dominant class of the Roman 
Empire is repeated after the fall of the Empire in the division 
between Germanic warriors and intellectuals of romanised origin, 
successors of the category of freedmen. Interweaved with this 
phenomenon are the birth and development of Catholicism and of 
the ecclesiastical organisation which for many centuries absorbs the 
major part of intellectual activities and exercises a monopoly of 
cultural direction with penal sanctions against anyone who attempted 
to oppose or even evade the monopoly. In Italy we can observe 
the phenomenon, whose intensity varies from period to period, of 
the cosmopolitan function of the intellectuals of the peninsula. I 
shall now turn to the differences which are instantly apparent in 
the development of the intellectuals in a number of the more 
important countries, with the proviso that these observations 
require to be controlled and examined in more depth. 

As far as Italy is concerned the central fact is precisely the 
international or cosmopolitan function of its intellectuals, which is 



both cause and effect of the state of disintegration in which the 
peninsula remained from the fall of the Roman Empire up to 1870. 

France offers the example of an accomplished form of harmonious 
development of the energies of the nation and of the intellectual 
categories in particular. When in 1789 a new social grouping makes 
its political appearance on the historical stage, it is already com- 
pletely equipped for all its social functions and can therefore 
struggle for total dominion of the nation. It does not have to make 
any essential compromises with the old classes but instead can 
subordinate them to its own ends. The first intellectual cells of the 
new type are born along with their first economic counterparts. 
Even ecclesiastical organisation is influenced (gallicanism, pre- 
cocious struggles between Church and State). This massive intel- 
lectual construction explains the function of culture in France in 
the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It was a function of 
international and cosmopolitan outward radiation and of imperial- 
istic and hegemonic expansion in an organic fashion, very different 
therefore from the Italian experience, which was founded on 
scattered personal migration and did not react on the national base 
to potentiate it but on the contrary contributed to rendering the 
constitution of a solid national base impossible. 

In England the development is very different from France. The 
new social grouping that grew up on the basis of modern indus- 
trialism shows a remarkable economic-corporate development but 
advances only gropingly in the intellectual-political field. There 
is a very extensive category of organic intellectuals — those, that is, 
who come into existence on the same industrial terrain as the 
economic group — but in the higher sphere we find that the old 
land-owning class preserves its position of virtual monopoly. It 
loses its economic supremacy but maintains for a long time a 
politico-intellectual supremacy and is assimilated as "traditional 
intellectuals" and as directive \dirigente] group by the new group 
in power. The old land-owning aristocracy is joined to the indus- 
trialists by a kind of suture which is precisely that which in other 
countries unites the traditional intellectuals with the new dominant 

The English phenomenon appears also in Germany, but com- 
plicated by other historical and traditional elements. Germany, 
like Italy, was the seat of an universalistic and supranational 
institution and ideology, the Holy Roman Empire of the German 
Nation, and provided a certain number of personnel for the mediaeval 
cosmopolis, impoverishing its own internal energies and arousing 



struggles which distracted from problems of national organisation 
and perpetuated the territorial disintegration of the Middle Ages. 
Industrial development took place within a semi-feudal integument 
that persisted up to November 1918, and the Junkers preserved a 
politico-intellectual supremacy considerably greater even than that 
of the corresponding group in England. They were the traditional 
intellectuals of the German industrialists, but retained special 
privileges and a strong consciousness of being an independent social 
group, based on the fact that they held considerable economic 
power over the land, which was more "productive" 16 than in 
England. The Prussian Junkers resemble a priestly-military caste, 
with a virtual monopoly of directive-organisational functions in 
political society, but possessing at the same time an economic base 
of its own and so not exclusively dependent on the liberality of the 
dominant economic group. Furthermore, unlike the English land- 
owning aristocracy, the Junkers constituted the officer class of a 
large standing army, which gave them solid organisational cadres 
favouring the preservation of an esprit de corps and of their political 

InRussia various features: the politicaland econoinico-commercial 
organisation was created by the Norman (Varangians), and religious 
organisation by the Byzantine Greeks. In a later period the Germans 
and the French brought to Russia the European experience and 
gave a first consistent skeleton to the protoplasm of Russian history. 
National forces were inert, passive and receptive, but perhaps 
precisely for this reason they assimilated completely the foreign 
influences and the foreigners themselves, Russifying them. In the 
more recent historical period we find the opposite phenomenon. 
An elite consisting of some of the most active, energetic, enterprising 
and disciplined members of the society emigrates abroad and 
assimilates the culture and historical experiences of the most advanced 

15 Gramsci is probably using the word "productive" here in the specifically 
Marxian sense of productive of surplus value or at any rate of surplus. 

* In Max Weber's book, Parliament and Government in the New Order in Germany 1 * 
can be found a number of elements to show how the political monopoly of the 
nobility impeded the elaboration of an extensive and experienced bourgeois 
political personnel and how it is at the root of the continual parliamentary crises 
and of the fragmentation of the liberal and democratic parties. Hence the import- 
ance of the Catholic centre and of Social democracy, which succeeded during the 
period of the Empire 1 ' in building up to a considerable extent their own parlia- 
mentary and directive strata, etc. 

18 Max Weber, Parlament und Regienmg im neugeordnetem Deutschland. English 
translation in From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, ed. H. H. Gerth and C. Wright 

" i.e. up to the formation of the Weimar Republic in 1919. 



countries of the West, without however losing the most essential 
characteristics of its own nationality, that is to say without breaking 
its sentimental and historical links with its own people. Having 
thus performed its intellectual apprenticeship it returns to its own 
country and compels the people to an enforced awakening, skipping 
historical stages in the process. The difference between this elite and 
that imported from Germany (by Peter the Great, for example) 
lies in its essentially national-popular character. It could not be 
assimilated by the inert passivity of the Russian people, because it 
was itself an energetic reaction of Russia to her own historical 

On another terrain, and in very different conditions of time and 
place, the Russian phenomenon can be compared to the birth of 
the American nation (in the United States). The Anglo-Saxon 
immigrants are themselves an intellectual, but more especially a 
moral, elite. I am talking, naturally, of the first immigrants, the 
pioneers, protagonists of the political and religious struggles in 
England, defeated but not humiliated or laid low in their country 
of origin. They import into America, together with themselves, 
apart from moral energy and energy of the will, a certain level of 
civilisation, a certain stage of European historical evolution, which, 
when transplanted by such men into the virgin soil of America, 
continues to develop the forces implicit in its nature but with an 
incomparably more rapid rhythm than in Old Europe, where there 
exists a whole series of checks (moral, intellectual, political, economic, 
incorporated in specific sections of the population, relics of past 
regimes which refuse to die out) which generate opposition to 
speedy progress and give to every initiative the equilibrium of 
mediocrity, diluting it in time and in space. 

One can note, in the case of the United States, the absence to a 
considerable degree of traditional intellectuals, and consequently a 
different equilibrium among the intellectuals in general. There has 
been a massive development, on top of an industrial base, of the 
whole range of modern superstructures. The necessity of an equi- 
librium is determined, not by the need to fuse together the organic 
intellectuals with the traditional, but by the need to fuse together 
in a single national crucible with a unitary culture the different 
forms of culture imported by immigrants of differing national 
origins. The lack of a vast sedimentation of traditional intellectuals 
such as one finds in countries of ancient civilisation explains, at 
least in part, both the existence of only two major political parties, 
which could in fact easily be reduced to one only (contrast this 



with the case of France, and not only in the post-war period when 
the multiplication of parties became a general phenomenon) , and 
at the opposite extreme the enormous proliferation of religious 

One further phenomenon in the United States is worth studying, 
and that is the formation of a surprising number of negro intellectuals 
who absorb American culture and technology. It is worth bearing 
in mind the indirect influence that these negro intellectuals could 
exercise on the backward masses in Africa, and indeed direct 
influence if one or other of these hypotheses were ever to be verified: 
i . that American expansionism should use American negroes as its 
agents in the conquest of the African market and the extension of 
American civilisation (something of the kind has already happened, 
but I don't know to what extent); 2. that the struggle for the 
unification of the American people should intensify in such a way 
as to provoke a negro exodus and the return to Africa of the most 
independent and energetic intellectual elements, the ones, in other 
words, who would be least inclined to submit to some possible 
future legislation that was even more humiliating than are the 
present widespread social customs. This development would give 
rise to two fundamental questions: i. linguistic: whether English 
could become the educated language of Africa, bringing unity in 
the place of the existing swarm of dialects? 2. whether this intel- 
lectual stratum could have sufficient assimilating and organising 
capacity to give a "national" character to the present primitive 
sentiment of being a despised race, thus giving the African continent 
a mythic function as the common fatherland of all the negro 
peoples? It seems to me that, for the moment, American negroes 
have a national and racial spirit which is negative rather than 
positive, one which is a product of the struggle carried on by the 
whites in order to isolate and depress them. But was not this the 
case with the Jews up to and throughout the eighteenth century? 
Liberia, already Americanised and with English as its official 
language, could become the Zion of American negroes, with a 
tendency to set itself up as an African Piedmont. 18 

In considering the question of the intellectuals in Central and 
South America, one should, I think, bear in mind certain funda- 

* More than two hundred of these have, I think, been counted. Again one 
should compare the case of France and the fierce struggles that went on to maintain 
the religious and moral unity of the French people. 

18 The reference here is to the role of leadership among the Italian States 
assumed by Piedmont during the Risorgimento. For Gramsci's analysis of this 
phenomenon, see "The Function of Piedmont", pp. 104-106. 



mental conditions. No vast category of traditional intellectuals 
exists in Central or South America either, but the question does 
not present itself in the same terms as with the United States. 
What in fact we find at the root of development of these countries 
are the patterns of Spanish and Portuguese civilisation of the 
sixteenth and seventeenth century, characterised by the effects of 
the Counter Reformation and by military parasitism. The change- 
resistant crystallisations which survive to this day in these countries 
are the clergy and a military caste, two categories of traditional 
intellectuals fossilised in a form inherited from the European 
mother country. The industrial base is very restricted, and has not 
developed complicated superstructures. The majority of intellectuals 
are of the rural type, and, since the latifundium is dominant, with 
a lot of property in the hands of the Church, these intellectuals are 
linked with the clergy and the big landowners. National composition 
is very unbalanced even among the white population and is further 
complicated by the great masses of Indians who in some countries 
form the majority of the inhabitants. It can be said that in these 
regions of the American continent there still exists a situation of 
the Kulturkampf and of the Dreyfus trial, 19 that is to say a situation 
in which the secular and bourgeois element has not yet reached the 
stage of being able to subordinate clerical and militaristic influence 
and interests to the secular politics of the modem State. It thus 
comes about that Free Masonry and forms of cultural organisation 
like the "positivist Church" are very influential in the opposition 
to Jesuitism. Most recent events (November 1930), from the 
Kulturkampf of Calles in Mexico 80 to the military-popular insurrec- 
tions in Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Chile and Bolivia, demonstrate 
the accuracy of these observations. 

Further types of formation of the categories of intellectuals and 
of their relationship with national forces can be found in India, 
China and Japan. In Japan we have a formation of the English 

18 "Kulturkampf" was the name given to the struggle waged by Bismarck, in 
the 1870s, with Liberal support, against Catholic opposition to Prussian hegemony. 
The Dreyfus case in France, which lasted from Dreyfus' first condemnation in 
1894. to his final acquittal in 1906, coincided with a major battle fully to laicise 
the French educational system and had the effect of polarising French society 
into a militaristic, pro-Catholic, anti-Semitic Right, and an anti-Catholic Liberal 
and Socialist Left. Both Kulturkampf and Dreyfus case can also be seen as aspects 
of the bourgeois-democratic struggle against the residues of reactionary social 

10 Plutarco Elias Calles was President of Mexico from 1924 28. It was under 
his Presidency that the religious and educational provisions of the new constitution 
were carried through, against violent Catholic opposition. 


2 3 

and German type, that is an industrial civilisation that develops 
within a feudal-bureaucratic integument with unmistakable features 
of its own. 

In China there is the phenomenon of the script, an expression of 
the complete separation between the intellectuals and the people. 
In both India and China the enormous gap separating intellectuals 
and people is manifested also in the religious field. The problem of 
different beliefs and of different ways of conceiving and practising 
the same religion among the various strata of society, but parti- 
cularly as between clergy, intellectuals and people, needs to be 
studied in general, since it occurs everywhere to a certain degree; 
but it is in the countries of East Asia that it reaches its most extreme 
form. In Protestant countries the difference is relatively slight (the 
proliferation of sects is connected with the need for a perfect suture 
between intellectuals and people, with the result that all the 
crudity of the effective conceptions of the popular masses is re- 
produced in the higher organisational sphere). It is more note- 
worthy in Catholic countries, but its extent varies. It is less in the 
Catholic parts of Germany and in France; rather greater in Italy, 
particularly in the South and in the islands; and very great indeed 
in the Iberian peninsula and in the countries of Latin America. 
The phenomenon increases in scale in the Orthodox countries 
where it becomes necessary to speak of three degrees of the same 
religion: that of the higher clergy and the monks, that of the secular 
clergy and that of the people. It reaches a level of absurdity in 
East Asia, where the religion of the people often has nothing what- 
ever to do with that of books, although the two are called by the 
same name. 




In 1923 the Mussolini government put through the first major 
reform of Italian education since the unification of the country sixty 
years earlier and the adoption of the Piedmontese educational 
system, as laid down by the Casati Act of 1859. The reform was 
drafted by, and named after, the idealist philosopher Giovanni 
Gentile, who was Mussolini's Minister of Education ; but its main 
lines had in fact been worked out by Croce, who had held the same 
post in the Giolitti government of 1921. In the first decades of 
this century, Gentile and Croce had developed a wide-ranging 
critique of the existing school system, stigmatising it as "instruction" 
not "education", and as narrow, formal and sterile. They par- 
ticularly attacked the learning by heart of Latin grammar and of 
philosophy and literature manuals. The watchwords of the Gentile 
reform were "educativity" and "active education", and Gramsci's 
object in his writing on education was in part to expose the rhetorical 
character of these slogans, and to show the practice which lay 
behind them. 

Gramsci's preoccupations in his writing on education are still 
at the centre of educational debate today: the relations between 
education and class; vocationalism; the ideology of education; 
the "comprehensive" school. Moreover, the positions which emerge 
from his criticisms of the Gentile reform should be seen in the light of 
his personal situation. The apparently "conservative" eulogy of the 
old curriculum in fact often represents a device which allowed 
Gramsci to circumvent the prison censor, by disguising the future 
(ideal system) as the past in order to criticise the present. In a 
different way, Gramsci's insistence on the values of discipline and 
work in education must also be seen in terms of his own history. 
He was far from being hostile to the Rousseauesque tradition in 
education, though he was critical of it. His attitude is best suggested 
in his comment: "The active school is still in its romantic phase, 
in which the elements of struggle against the mechanical and 
Jesuitical school have become unhealthily exaggerated — through a 
desire to distinguish themselves sharply from the latter and for 
polemical reasons. It is necessary to enter the 'classical', rational 
phase, and to find in the ends to be attained the natural source 
for developing the appropriate methods and forms." But born into 


2 5 

a backward peasant environment and deprived of either an adequate 
or a continuous education, Gramsci's success in school and uni- 
versity despite constant ill-health, under-nourishment and over-work 
was a triumph of intellectual purpose. Something of his individual 
experience is thus carried over into his repeated emphasis on 
learning as work. (Just as his childhood experience led him to 
value so highly an education which combated "folklore" and 

The relation between autobiography and sociological reflection in 
Gramsci's thought is, however, more intimate and complex even 
than this would suggest. For, as the last sentence of the second of 
these notes shows, it is with the creation of intellectuals from the 
working class that he is ultimately concerned, and his life was 
precisely the history of the formation of such an intellectual. In 
perhaps the key passage of his analysis, he wrote: "It was right to 
struggle against the old school, but reforming it was not so simple 
as it seemed. The problem was not one of model curricula but of 
men, and not just of the men who are actually teachers themselves 
but of the entire social complex which they express." This judge- 
ment sums up the whole dialectical character of education which 
it was the object of the preceding notes to suggest. The reference to 
the future, creating intellectuals from the working class, is funda- 
mental to Gramsci's thought. It is the revolutionary perspective 
which structures his whole analysis. In the last resort, the work 
involved in education which Gramsci emphasises so much is at one 
and the same time the work by means of which he personally 
transcended his environment and the work required in the forging 
of a revolutionary party of the working class — the latter's "organic 



It may be observed in general that in modern civilisation all 
practical activities have become so complex, and the sciences 1 so 
interwoven with everyday life, that each practical activity tends 
to create a new type of school for its own executives and specialists 
and hence to create a body of specialist intellectuals at a higher 
level to teach in these schools. Thus, side by side with the type of 
school which may be called "humanistic" — the oldest form of 
traditional school, designed to develop in each individual human 
being an as yet undifferentiated general culture, the fundamental 
power to think and ability to find one's way in life — a whole system 
of specialised schools, at varying levels, has been being created to 
serve entire professional sectors, or professions which are already 
specialised and defined within precise boundaries. It may be said, 
indeed, that the educational crisis raging today is precisely linked 
to the fact that this process of differentiation and particularisation 
is taking place chaotically, without clear and precise principles, 
without a well-studied and consciously established plan. The crisis 
of the curriculum and organisation of the schools, i.e. of the overall 
framework of a policy for forming modern intellectual cadres, is to 
a great extent an aspect and a ramification of the more compre- 
hensive and general organic crisis. 

The fundamental division into classical and vocational (profes- 
sional) schools was a rational formula: the vocational school for 
the instrumental classes, 8 the classical school for the dominant 
classes and the intellectuals. The development of an industrial base 
both in the cities and in the countryside meant a growing need 
for the new type of urban intellectual. Side by side with the 
classical school there developed the technical school (vocational, but 
not manual), and this placed a question-mark over the very principle 
of a concrete programme of general culture, a humanistic pro- 
gramme of general culture based on the Graeco-Roman tradition. 
This programme, once questioned, can be said to be doomed, 

1 "Sciences" in the sense of branches of human knowledge, rather than in the 
more restricted meaning which the word has taken on since the industrial 

2 Classi strumentali is a term used by Gramsci interchangeably with the terms 
classi subalterne or classi subordinate, and there seems no alternative to a literal 
translation of each which leaves the reader free to decide whether there is any 
different nuance of stress between them. See too the final paragraph of "History 
of the Subaltern Classes" on pp. 52-5 below. 



since its formative capacity was to a great extent based on the 
general and traditionally unquestioned prestige of a particular 
form of civilisation. 

The tendency today is to abolish every type of schooling that 
is "disinterested" (not serving immediate interests) or "formative" — 
keeping at most only a small-scale version to serve a tiny elite of 
ladies and gentlemen who do not have to worry about assuring 
themselves of a future career. Instead, there is a steady growth of 
specialised vocational schools, in which the pupil's destiny and 
future activity are determined in advance. A rational solution to 
the crisis ought to adopt the following lines. First, a common basic 
education, imparting a general, humanistic, formative culture; this 
would strike the right balance between development of the capacity 
for working manually (technically, industrially) and development 
of the capacities required for intellectual work. From this type of 
common schooling, via repeated experiments in vocational orienta- 
tion, pupils would pass on to one of the specialised schools or to 
productive work. 

One must bear in mind the developing tendency for every 
practical activity to create for itself its own specialised school, just 
as every intellectual activity tends to create for itself cultural 
associations of its own; the latter take on the function of post- 
scholastic institutions, specialised in organising the conditions in 
which it is possible to keep abreast of whatever progress is being 
made in the given scientific field. 

It may also be observed that deliberative bodies tend to an 
ever-increasing extent to distinguish their activity into two "organic" 
aspects: into the deliberative activity which is their essence, and 
into technical-cultural activity in which the questions upon which 
they have to take decisions are first examined by experts and 
analysed scientifically. This latter activity has already created a 
whole bureaucratic body, with a new structure; for apart from the 
specialised departments of experts who prepare the technical 
material for the deliberative bodies, a second body of functionaries 
is created — more or less disinterested "volunteers", selected vari- 
ously from industry, from the banks, from finance houses. This is 
one of the mechanisms by means of which the career bureaucracy 
eventually came to control the democratic regimes and parlia- 
ments; now the mechanism is being organically extended, and is 
absorbing into its sphere the great specialists of private enterprise, 
which thus comes to control both regimes and bureaucracies. 
What is involved is a necessary, organic development which tends 



to integrate the personnel specialised in the technique of politics 
with personnel specialised in the concrete problems of administering 
the essential practical activities of the great and complex national 
societies of today. Hence every attempt to exorcise these tendencies 
from the outside produces no result other than moralistic sermons 
and rhetorical lamentations. 

The question is thus raised of modifying the training of technical- 
political personnel, completing their culture in accordance with the 
new necessities, and of creating specialised functionaries of a new 
kind, who as a body will complement deliberative activity. The 
traditional type of political "leader", prepared only for formal- 
juridical activities, is becoming anachronistic and represents a 
danger for the life of the State : the leader must have that minimum 
of general technical culture which will permit him, if not to "create" 
autonomously the correct solution, at least to know how to adjudi- 
cate between the solutions put forward by the experts, and hence 
to choose the correct one from the "synthetic" viewpoint of 
political technique. 

A type of deliberative body which seeks to incorporate the 
technical expertise necessary for it to operate realistically has been 
described elsewhere, 3 in an account of what happens on the editorial 
committees of some reviews, when these function at the same time 
both as editorial committees and as cultural groups. The group 
criticises as a body, and thus helps to define the tasks of the indi- 
vidual editors, whose activity is organised according to a plan and 
a division of labour which are rationally arranged in advance. By 
means of collective discussion and criticism (made up of suggestions, 
advice, comments on method, and criticism which is constructive 
and aimed at mutual education) in which each individual functions 
as a specialist in his own field and helps to complete the expertise 
of the collectivity, the average level of the individual editors is in 
fact successfully raised so that it reaches the altitude or capacity 
of the most highly-skilled — thus not merely ensuring an ever more 
select and organic collaboration for the review, but also creating 
the conditions for the emergence of a homogeneous group of 
intellectuals, trained to produce a regular and methodical "writing" 
activity (not only in terms of occasional publications or short 
articles, but also of organic, synthetic studies). 

Undoubtedly, in this kind of collective activity, each task pro- 
duces new capacities and possibilities of work, since it creates ever 

• Int., pp. 137 ff. 



more organic conditions of work : files, bibliographical digests, a 
library of basic specialised works, etc. Such activity requires an 
unyielding struggle against habits of dilettantism, of improvisation, 
of "rhetorical" solutions or those proposed for effect. The work 
has to be done particularly in written form, just as it is in written 
form that criticisms have to be made — in the form of terse, succinct 
notes: this can be achieved if the material is distributed in time, 
etc.; the writing down of notes and criticisms is a didactic principle 
rendered necessary by the need to combat the habits formed in 
public speaking — prolixity, demagogy and paralogism. This type 
of intellectual work is necessary in order to impart to autodidacts 
the discipline in study which an orthodox scholastic career provides, 
in order to Taylorise 4 intellectual work. Hence the usefulness of 
the principle of the "old men of Santa Zita" of whom De Sanctis 
speaks in his memoirs of the Neapolitan school of Basilio Puoti: 6 
i.e. the usefulness of a certain "stratification" of capabilities and 
attitudes, and of the formation of work-groups under the guidance 
of the most highly-skilled and highly-developed, who can accelerate 
the training of the most backward and untrained. 

When one comes to study the practical organisation of the common 
school, one problem of importance is that of the various phases 
of the educational process, phases which correspond to the age and 
intellectual-moral development of the pupils and to the aims which 
the school sets itself. The common school, or school of humanistic 
formation (taking the term "humanism" in a broad sense rather 
than simply in the traditional one) or general culture, should aim 
to insert young men and women into social activity after bringing 
them to a certain level of maturity, of capacity for intellectual and 
practical creativity, and of autonomy of orientation and initiative. 
The fixing of an age for compulsory school attendance depends on 
the general economic conditions, since the latter may make it 
necessary to demand of young men and women, or even of children, 
a certain immediate productive contribution. The common school 
necessitates the State's being able to take on the expenditure which 

4 For Gramsci's analysis of Taylorism, see "Americanism and Fordism", below 
pp. 302 ff. 

6 De Sanctis in his memoirs recounts how as a child in Naples he was taken 
to be taught literary Italian at a school for the aristocracy of the city run in his 
home by the Marchese Puoti. Puoti used to refer to the elder boys, whose 
"judgement carried great weight, and when one of them spoke everyone fell 
silent, the marquis soonest of all, and was filled with admiration", as gli anziani 
di Santa Zita, in reference to Dante, Inferno XXI, 38. The "anziani" were the 
magistrates of the city of Lucca, whose patron saint was Zita. 



at present falls on the family for the maintenance of children at 
school; in other words, it transforms the budget of the national 
department from top to bottom, expanding it to an unheard of 
extent and making it more complex. The entire function of 
educating and forming the new generations ceases to be private 
and becomes public; for only thus can it involve them in their 
entirety, without divisions of group or caste. But this transformation 
of scholastic activity requires an unprecedented expansion of the 
practical organisation of the school, i.e. of buildings, scientific 
material, of the teaching body, etc. The teaching body in particular 
would have to be increased, since the smaller the ratio between 
teachers and pupils the greater will be the efficiency of the school — 
and this presents other problems neither easy nor quick to solve. 
The question of school buildings is not simple either, since this type 
of school should be a college, with dormitories, refectories, specialised 
libraries, rooms designed for seminar work, etc. Hence initially the 
new type of school will have to be, cannot help being, only for 
restricted groups, made up of young people selected through com- 
petition or recommended by similar institutions. 

The common school ought to correspond to the period represented 
today by the primary and secondary schools, reorganised not only 
as regards the content and the method of teaching, but also as 
regards the arrangement of the various phases of the educational 
process. The first, primary grade should not last longer than three 
or four years, and in addition to imparting the first "instrumental" 
notions of schooling — reading, writing, sums, geography, history — 
ought in particular to deal with an aspect of education that is now 
neglected — i.e. with "rights and duties", with the first notions of 
the State and society as primordial elements of a new conception 
of the world which challenges the conceptions that are imparted 
by the various traditional social environments, i.e. those concep- 
tions which can be termed folkloristic. The didactic problem is one 
of mitigating and rendering more fertile the dogmatic approach 
which must inevitably characterise these first years. The rest of the 
course should not last more than six years, so that by the age of 
fifteen or sixteen it should be possible to complete all the grades 
of the common school. 

One may object that such a course is too exhausting because 
too rapid, if the aim is to attain in effect the results which the 
present organisation of the classical school aims at but does not 
attain. Yet the new organisation as a whole will have to contain 
within itself the general elements which in fact make the course 



too slow today, at least for a part of the pupils. Which aTe these 
elements? In a whole series of families, especially in the intellectual 
strata, the children find in their family life a preparation, a 
prolongation and a completion of school life; they "breathe in", 
as the expression goes, a whole quantity of notions and attitudes 
which facilitate the educational process properly speaking. They 
already know and develop their knowledge of the literary language, 
i.e. the means of expression and of knowledge, which is technically 
superior to the means possessed by the average member of the 
school population between the ages of six and twelve. Thus city 
children, by the very fact of living in a city, have already 
absorbed by the age of six a quantity of notions and attitudes 
which make their school careers easier, more profitable, and 
more rapid. In the basic organisation of the common school, at 
least the essentials of these conditions must be created — not to 
speak of the fact, which goes without saying, that parallel to the 
common school a network of kindergartens and other institutions 
would develop, in which, even before the school age, children 
would be habituated to a certain collective discipline and acquire 
pre-scholastic notions and attitudes. In fact, the common school 
should be organised like a college, with a collective life by day 
and by night, freed from the present forms of hypocritical and 
mechanical discipline; studies should be carried on collectively, with 
the assistance of the teachers and the best pupils, even during 
periods of so-called individual study, etc. 

The fundamental problem is posed by that phase of the existing 
school career which is today represented by the liceo, 6 and which 
today does not differ at all, as far as the kind of education is con- 
cerned, from the preceding grades — except by the abstract pre- 
sumption of a greater intellectual and moral maturity of the pupil, 
matching his greater age and the experience he has already 

In fact between liceo and university, i.e. between the school 
properly speaking and life, there is now a jump, a real break in 
continuity, and not a rational passage from quantity (age) to 
quality (intellectual and moral maturity). From an almost purely 
dogmatic education, in which learning by heart plays a great part, 
the pupil passes to the creative phase, the phase of autonomous, 

* Perhaps the nearest English-language equivalents of ginnosio and liceo are 
the American junior high school and high school, though in the Italian system 
they are selective schools (like English grammar schools) leading to a university 



independent work. From the school, where his studies are subjected 
to a discipline that is imposed and controlled by authority, the 
pupil passes on to a phase of study or of professional work in which 
intellectual self-discipline and moral independence are theoretically 
unlimited. And this happens immediately after the crisis of puberty, 
when the ardour of the instinctive and elementary passions has not 
yet resolved its struggle with the fetters of the character and of 
moral conscience which are in the process of being formed. 
Moreover, in Italy, where the principle of 'seminar' work is not 
widespread in the universities, this passage is even more brusque 
and mechanical. 

By contrast, therefore, the last phase of the common school must 
be conceived and structured as the decisive phase, whose aim is to 
create the fundamental values of "humanism", the intellectual 
self-discipline and the moral independence which are necessary for 
subsequent specialisation — whether it be of a scientific character 
(university studies) or of an immediately practical-productive 
character (industry, civil service, organisation of commerce, etc.) . 
The study and learning of creative methods in science and in life 
must begin in this last phase of the school, and no longer be a 
monopoly of the university or be left to chance in practical life. 
This phase of the school must already contribute to developing the 
element of independent responsibility in each individual, must be 
a creative school. A distinction must be made between creative 
school and active school, even in the form given to the latter by the 
Dalton method. 7 The entire common school is an active school, 
although it is necessary to place limits on libertarian ideologies in 
this field and to stress with some energy the duty of the adult genera- 
tions, i.e. of the State, to "mould" the new generations. The active 
school is still in its romantic phase, in which the elements of 
struggle against the mechanical and Jesuitical school have become 

' The Dalton Method, a development of Montessori's ideas, is described 
elsewhere by Gramsci (Int., p. 122): "the pupils are free to attend whichever 
lessons (whether practical or theoretical) they please, provided that by the end 
of each month they have completed the programme set for them; discipline is 
entrusted to the pupils themselves. The system has a serious defect: the pupils 
generally postpone doing their work until the last days of the month, and this 
detracts from the seriousness of the education and represents a major difficulty 
for the teachers who are supposed to help them but are overwhelmed with work — 
whereas in the first weeks of the month they have little or nothing to do. (The 
Dalton system is simply an extension to the secondary schools of the methods of 
study which obtain in the Italian universities, methods which leave the student 
complete freedom in his studies: in certain faculties the students sit twenty 
examinations and their final degree in the fourth and last year, and the lecturer 
never so much as knows the student.)" 



unhealthily exaggerated — through a desire to distinguish them- 
selves sharply from the latter, and for polemical reasons. It is 
necessary to enter the "classical", rational phase, and to find in 
the ends to be attained the natural source for developing the 
appropriate methods and forms. 

The creative school is the culmination of the active school. In 
the first phase the aim is to discipline, hence also to level out — to 
obtain a certain kind of "conformism" which may be called 
"dynamic". In the creative phase, on the basis that has been 
achieved of "collectivisation" of the social type, the aim is to 
expand the personality — by now autonomous and responsible, but 
with a solid and homogeneous moral and social conscience. Thus 
creative school does not mean school of "inventors and discoverers"; 
it indicates a phase and a method of research and of knowledge, 
and not a predetermined "programme" with an obligation to 
originality and innovation at all costs. It indicates that learning 
takes place especially through a spontaneous and autonomous 
effort of the pupil, with the teacher only exercising a function of 
friendly guide — as happens or should happen in the university. To 
discover a truth oneself, without external suggestions or assistance, 
is to create — even if the truth is an old one. It demonstrates a 
mastery of the method, and indicates that in any case one has 
entered the phase of intellectual maturity in which one may discover 
new truths. Hence in this phase the fundamental scholastic activity 
will be carried on in seminars, in libraries, in experimental labora- 
tories; during it, the organic data will be collected for a professional 

The advent of the common school means the beginning of new 
relations between intellectual and industrial work, not only in the 
school but in the whole of social life. The comprehensive principle 
will therefore be reflected in all the organisms of culture, trans- 
forming them and giving them a new content. 


In the old primary school, there used to be two elements in the 
educational formation of the children. 8 They were taught the 
rudiments of natural science, and the idea of civic rights and duties. 
Scientific ideas were intended to insert the child into the societas 
rerum, the world of things, while lessons in rights and duties were 

8 i.e. before the Gentile reform see introduction to this section, and note 14 
on p. 13a. 



intended to insert him into the State and into civil society. The 
scientific ideas the children learnt conflicted with the magical con- 
ception, of the world and nature which they absorbed from an 
environment steeped in folklore; 9 while the idea of civic rights and 
duties conflicted with tendencies towards individualistic and 
localistic barbarism — another dimension of folklore. The school 
combated folklore, indeed every residue of traditional conceptions 
of the world. It taught a more modern outlook based essentially 
on an awareness of the simple and fundamental fact that there 
exist objective, intractable natural laws to which man must adapt 
himself if he is to master them in his turn — and that there exist 
social and state laws which are the product of human activity, 
which are established by men and can be altered by men in the 
interests of their collective development. These laws of the State 
and of society create that human order which historically best 
enables men to dominate the laws of nature, that is to say which 
most facilitates their work. For work is the specific mode by which 
man actively participates in natural life in order to transform and 
socialise it more and more deeply and extensively. 

Thus one can say that the educational principle which was the 
basis of the old primary school was the idea of work. Human 
work cannot be realised in all its power of expansion and pro- 
ductivity without an exact and realistic knowledge of natural laws 
and without a legal order which organically regulates men's life 
in common. Men must respect this legal order through spontaneous 
assent, and not merely as an external imposition — it must be a 
necessity recognised and proposed to themselves as freedom, and 
not simply the result of coercion. The idea and the fact of work 
(of theoretical and practical activity) was the educational principle 
latent in the primary school, since it is by means of work that the 
social and State order (rights and duties) is introduced and identified 
within the natural order. The discovery that the relations between 
the social and natural orders are mediated by work, by man's 
theoretical and practical activity, creates the first elements of an 
intuition of the world free from all magic and superstition. It 
provides a basis for the subsequent development of an historical, 
dialectical conception of the world, which understands movement 
and change, which appreciates the sum of effort and sacrifice which 
the present has cost the past and which the future is costing the 
present, and which conceives the contemporary world as a synthesis 

8 See above, p. 30, for Gramsci's use of the term "folklore". See too, note 5 on 
p. 326. 



of the past, of all past generations, which projects itself into the 
future. This was the real basis of the primary school. Whether it 
yielded all its fruits, and whether the actual teachers were aware 
of the nature and philosophical content of their task, is another 
question. This requires an analysis of the degree of civic conscious- 
ness of the entire nation, of which the teaching body was merely 
an expression, and rather a poor expression — certainly not an 

It' is not entirely true that "instruction" is something quite 
different from "education". 10 An excessive emphasis on this dis- 
tinction has been a serious error of idealist educationalists and its 
effects can already be seen in the school system as they have 
reorganised it. For instruction to be wholly distinct from education, 
the pupil would have to be pure passivity, a "mechanical receiver" 
of abstract notions — which is absurd and is anyway "abstractly" 
denied by the supporters of pure educativity precisely in their 
opposition to mere mechanistic instruction. The "certain" becomes 
"true" in the child's consciousness. 11 But the child's consciousness 
is not something "individual" (still less individuated), it reflects the 
sector of civil society in which the child participates, and the social 
relations which are formed within his family, his neighbourhood, 
his village, etc. The individual consciousness of the overwhelming 
majority of children reflects social and cultural relations which are 
different from and antagonistic to those which are represented in 
the school curricula: thus the "certain" of an advanced culture 
becomes "true" in the framework of a fossilised and anachronistic 
culture. There is no unity between school and life, and so there is 
no automatic unity between instruction and education. In the 
school, the nexus between instruction and education can only be 
realised by the living work of the teacher. For this he must be aware 
of the contrast between the type of culture and society which he 

10 For this distinction, popular with educational thinkers influenced by Gentile 
and by Croce, see the introduction to this section. 

11 This distinction was made by Vico, in his Scienza Kuova of 1725. Para. 321 : 
"The 'certain' in the laws is an obscurity of judgement backed only by authority, 
so that we find them harsh in application, yet are obliged to apply them just 
because they are certain. In good Latin cerium means particularised, or, as the 
schools say, individuated; so that, in over-elegant Latin, cerium and commune, the 
certain and the common, are opposed to each other." Para. 324: "The true in 
the laws is a certain light and splendour with which natural reason illuminates 
them; so that jurisconsults are often in the habit of saying verum est for aequum est." 
Para. 137: "Men who do not know what is true of things take care to hold fast 
to what is certain, so that, if they cannot satisfy their intellects by knowledge 
(scunza), their wills at least may rest on consciousness (coscunza)." The New 
Science, trans. Bergin and Fisch, Cornell, ig68. 



represents and the type of culture and society represented by his 
pupils, and conscious of his obligation to accelerate and regulate 
the child's formation in conformity with the former and in conflict 
with the latter. If the teaching body is not adequate and the nexus 
between instruction and education is dissolved, while the problem 
of teaching is conjured away by cardboard schemata exalting 
educativity, the teacher's work will as a result become yet more 
inadequate. We will have rhetorical schools, quite unserious, 
because the material solidity of what is "certain" will be missing, 
and what is "true" will be a truth only of words: that is to say, 
precisely, rhetoric. 

This degeneration is even clearer in the secondary school, in the 
literature and philosophy syllabus. Previously, the pupils at least 
acquired a certain "baggage" or "equipment" (according to taste) 
of concrete facts. Now that the teacher must be specifically a 
philosopher and aesthete, the pupil does not bother with concrete 
facts and fills his head with formulae and words which usually 
mean nothing to him, and which are forgotten at once. It was 
right to struggle against the old school, but reforming it was not 
so simple as it seemed. The problem was not one of model curricula 
but of men, and not just of the men who are actually teachers them- 
selves but of the entire social complex which they express. In 
reality a mediocre teacher may manage to see to it that his pupils 
become more informed, although he will not succeed in making 
them better educated; he can devote a scrupulous and bureaucratic 
conscientiousness to the mechanical part of teaching — and the 
pupil, if he has an active intelligence, will give an order of his 
own, with the aid of his social background, to the "baggage" he 
accumulates. With the new curricula, which coincide with a general 
lowering of the level of the teaching profession, there will no longer 
be any "baggage" to put in order. The new curricula should have 
abolished examinations entirely; for to take an examination now 
must be fearfully more chancy than before. A date is always a 
date, whoever the examiner is, and a definition is always a defini- 
tion. But an aesthetic judgement or a philosophical analysis? 

The educational efficacy of the old Italian secondary school, as 
organised by the Casati Act, 12 was not to be sought (or rejected) 
in its explicit aim as an "educative" system, but in the fact that 
its structure and its curriculum were the expression of a traditional 
mode of intellectual and moral life, of a cultural climate diffused 

12 The Casati Act, passed in 1859, remained the basis of the Italian educational 
system until the Gentile Reform of 1923. 



throughout Italian society by ancient tradition. It was the fact that 
this climate and way of life were in their death-throes, and that 
the school had become cut off from life, which brought about the 
crisis in education. A criticism of the curricula and disciplinary 
structure of the old system means less than nothing if one does not 
keep this situation in mind. Thus we come back to the truly active 
participation of the pupil in the school, which can only exist if 
the school is related to life. The more the new curricula nominally 
affirm and theorise the pupil's activity and working collaboration 
with the teacher, the more they are actually designed as if the 
pupil were purely passive. 

In the old school the grammatical study of Latin and Greek, 
together with the study of their respective literatures and political 
histories, was an educational principle — for the humanistic ideal, 
symbolised by Athens and Rome, was diffused throughout society, 
and was an essential element of national life and culture. Even the 
mechanical character of the study of grammar was enlivened by this 
cultural perspective. Individual facts were not learnt for an imme- 
diate practical or professional end. The end seemed disinterested, 
because the real interest was the interior development of personality, 
the formation of character by means of the absorption and assimila- 
tion of the whole cultural past of modern European civilisation. 
Pupils did not learn Latin and Greek in order to speak them, to 
become waiters, interpreters or commercial letter-writers. They 
learnt them in order to know at first hand the civilisation of Greece 
and of Rome — a civilisation that was a necessary precondition of 
our modern civilisation: in other words, they learnt them in order 
to be themselves and know themselves consciously. Latin and 
Greek were learnt through their grammar, mechanically; but the 
accusation of formalism and aridity is very unjust and inappro- 
priate. In education one is dealing with children in whom one has 
to inculcate certain habits of diligence, precision, poise (even 
physical poise), ability to concentrate on specific subjects, which 
cannot be acquired without the mechanical repetition of disciplined 
and methodical acts. Would a scholar at the age of forty be able to 
sit for sixteen hours on end at his work-table if he had not, as a 
child, compulsorily, through mechanical coercion, acquired the 
appropriate psycho-physical habits? If one wishes to produce great 
scholars, one still has to start at this point and apply pressure 
throughout the educational system in order to succeed in creating 
those thousands or hundreds or even only dozens of scholars of the 
highest quality which are necessary to every civilisation. (Of 



course, one can improve a great deal in this field by the provision 
of adequate funds for research, without going back to the educa- 
tional methods of the Jesuits.) 

Latin is learnt (or rather studied) by analysing it down to its 
smallest parts — analysing it like a dead thing, it is true, but all 
analyses made by children can only be of dead things. Besides, 
one must not forget that the life of the Romans is a myth which to 
some extent has already interested the child and continues to 
interest him, so that in the dead object there is always present a 
greater living being. Thus, the language is dead, it is analysed as 
an inert object, as a corpse on the dissecting table, but it continually 
comes to life again in examples and in stories. Could one study 
Italian in the same way ? Impossible. No living language could be 
studied like Latin: it would be and would seem absurd. No child 
knows Latin when he starts to study it by these analytical methods. 
But a living language can be known and it would be enough for a 
single child to know it, and the spell would be broken: everybody 
would be off to the Berlitz school at once. Latin (like Greek) 
appears to the imagination as a myth, even for the teacher. One 
does not study Latin in order to learn the language. For a long time, 
as a result of a cultural and scholarly tradition whose origin and 
development one might investigate, Latin has been studied as an 
element in an ideal curriculum, an element which combines and 
satisfies a whole series of pedagogic and psychological requirements. 
It has been studied in order to accustom children to studying in a 
specific manner, and to analysing an historical body which can be 
treated as a corpse which returns continually to life; in order to 
accustom them to reason, to think abstractly and schematically 
while remaining able to plunge back from abstraction into real and 
immediate life, to see in each fact or datum what is general and 
what is particular, to distinguish the concept from the specific 

For what after all is the educational significance of the constant 
comparison between Latin and the language one speaks ? It involves 
the distinction and the identification of words and concepts; 
suggests the whole of formal logic, from the contradiction between 
opposites to the analysis of distincts; 13 reveals the historical move- 
ment of the entire language, modified through time, developing 
and not static. In the eight years of ginnasio and liceo 1 * the entire 
history of the real language is studied, after it has first been photo- 

18 For Croce's concept of the "analysis of distincts" see Introduction, p. xxiii. 
14 See note 6 on p. 31. 



graphed in one abstract moment in the form of grammar. It is 
studied from Ennius (or rather from the words of the fragments of 
the twelve tablets) right up to Phaedrus and the Christian writers 
in Latin: an historical process is analysed from its source until its 
death in time — or seeming death, since we know that Italian, with 
which Latin is continually contrasted in school, is modern Latin. 
Not only the grammar of a certain epoch (which is an abstraction) 
or its vocabulary are studied, but also, for comparison, the grammar 
and the vocabulary of each individual author and the meaning of 
each term in each particular stylistic "period". Thus the child 
discovers that the grammar and the vocabulary of Phaedrus are 
not those of Cicero, nor those of Plautus, nor of Lactantius or 
Tertullian, and that the same nexus of sounds does not have the 
same meaning in different periods and for different authors. Latin 
and Italian are continually compared; but each word is a concept, 
a symbol, which takes on different shades of meaning according 
to the period and the writer in each of the two languages under 
comparison. The child studies the literary history of the books 
written in that language, the political history, the achievements of 
the men who spoke that language. His education is determined by 
the whole of this organic complex, by the fact that he has followed 
that itinerary, if only in a purely literal sense, he has passed through 
those various stages, etc. He has plunged into history and acquired 
a historicising understanding of the world and of life, which becomes 
a second — nearly spontaneous — nature, since it is not inculcated 
pedantically with an openly educational intention. These studies 
educated without an explicitly declared aim of doing so, with a 
minimal "educative" intervention on the part of the teacher: they 
educated because they gave instruction. Logical, artistic, psycho- 
logical experience was gained unawares, without a continual self- 
consciousness. Above all a profound "synthetic", philosophical 
experience was gained, of an actual historical development. This 
does not mean — it would be stupid to think so — that Latin and 
Greek, as such, have intrinsically thaumaturgical qualities in the 
educational field. It is the whole cultural tradition, which also and 
particularly lives outside the school, which in a given ambience 
produces such results. In any case one can see today, with the 
changes in the traditional idea of culture, the way in which the 
school is in crisis and with it the study of Latin and Greek. 

It will be necessary to replace Latin and Greek as the fulcrum 
of the formative school, and they will be replaced. But it will not 
be easy to deploy the new subject or subjects in a didactic form 

4 o 


which gives equivalent results in terms of education and general 
personality-formation, from early childhood to the threshold of the 
adult choice of career. For in this period what is learnt, or the 
greater part of it, must be — or appear to the pupils to be — dis- 
interested, i.e. not have immediate or too immediate practical 
purposes. It must be formative, while being "instructive" — in 
other words rich in concrete facts. In the present school, the pro- 
found crisis in the traditional culture and its conceptioir of life and 
of man has resulted in a progressive degeneration. Schools of the 
vocational type, i.e. those designed to satisfy immediate, practical 
interests, are beginning to predominate over the formative school, 
which is not immediately "interested". The most paradoxical 
aspect of it all is that this new type of school appears and is advocated 
as being democratic, while in fact it is destined not merely to 
perpetuate social differences but to crystallise them in Chinese 

The traditional school was oligarchic because it was intended for 
the new generation of the ruling class, destined to rule in its turn : 
but it was not oligarchic in its mode of teaching. It is not the fact 
that the pupils learn how to rule there, nor the fact that it tends 
to produce gifted men, which gives a particular type of school its 
social character. This social character is determined by the fact 
that each social group has its own type of school, intended to per- 
petuate a specific traditional function, ruling or subordinate. If one 
wishes to break this pattern one needs, instead of multiplying and 
grading different types of vocational school, to create a single type 
of formative school (primary-secondary) which would take the child 
up to the threshold of his choice of job, forming him during this 
time as a person capable of thinking, studying, and ruling — or con- 
trolling those who rule. 

The multiplication of types of vocational school thus tends to 
perpetuate traditional social differences; but since, within these 
differences, it tends to encourage internal diversification, it gives 
the impression of being democratic in tendency. The labourer can 
become a skilled worker, for instance, the peasant a surveyor or 
petty agronomist. But democracy, by definition, cannot mean 
merely that an unskilled worker can become skilled. It must mean 
that every "citizen" can "govern" and that society places him, even 
if only abstractly, in a general condition to achieve this. Political 
democracy tends towards a coincidence of the rulers and the ruled 
(in the sense of government with the consent of the governed), 
ensuring for each non-ruler a free training in the skills and general 



technical preparation necessary to that end. But the type of school 
which is now developing as the school for the people does not tend 
even to keep up this illusion. For it is organised ever more fully 
in such a way as to restrict recruitment to the technically qualified 
governing stratum, in a social and political context which makes 
it increasingly difficult for "personal initiative" to acquire such 
skills and technical-political preparation. Thus we are really going 
back to a division into juridically fixed and crystallised estates 
rather than moving towards the transcendence of class divisions. 
The multiplication of vocational schools which specialise increasingly 
from the very beginning of the child's educational career is one 
of the most notable manifestations of this tendency. It is noticeable 
that the new pedagogy has concentrated its fire on "dogmatism" 
in the field of instruction and the learning of concrete facts — i.e. 
precisely in the field in which a certain dogmatism is practically 
indispensable and can be reabsorbed and dissolved only in the whole 
cycle of the educational process (historical grammar could not be 
taught in liceo classes). On the other hand, it has been forced to 
accept the introduction of dogmatism par excellence in the field of 
religious thought, with the result that the whole history of philo- 
sophy is now implicitly seen as a succession of ravings and delusions. 15 
In the philosophy course, the new curriculum impoverishes the 
teaching and in practice lowers its level (at least for the over- 
whelming majority of pupils who do not receive intellectual help 
outside the school from their family or home environment, and 
who have to form themselves solely by means of the knowledge 
they receive in the class-room) — in spite of seeming very rational 
and fine, fine as any Utopia. The traditional descriptive philosophy, 
backed by a course in the history of philosophy and by the reading 
of a certain number of philosophers, in practice seems the best 
thing. Descriptive, definitional philosophy may be a dogmatic 
abstraction, just as grammar and mathematics are, but it is an 
educational and didactive necessity. "One equals one" is an 

16 The Gentile Reform provided for compulsory religious education in Italian 
schools, and Gentile's justifications of this are criticised by Gramsci in Int., 
pp. 1 16-18: ". . . Gentile's thinking ... is nothing more than an extension of the 
idea that 'religion is good for the people' (people = child = primitive phase 
of thought to which religion corresponds, etc.), i.e. a (tendentious) abandonment 
of the aim of educating the people . . . Gentile's historicism is of a very degenerate 
kind : it is the historicism of those jurists f or whom the knout is not a knout when 
it is an 'historical' knout. Moreover, its ideas are extremely vague and confused. 
The fact that a 'dogmatic' exposition of scientific ideas and a certain 'mythology' 
are necessary in the primary school does not mean that the dogma and the 
mythology have to be precisely those of religion." Etc. See note 14 on p. 132. 



abstraction, but it leads nobody to think that one fly equals one 
elephant. The rules of formal logic are abstractions of the same 
kind, they are like the grammar of normal thought; but they still 
need to be studied, since they are not something innate, but have 
to be acquired through work and reflection. The new curriculum 
presupposes that formal logic is something you already possess when 
you think, but does not explain how it is to be acquired, so that in 
practice it is assumed to be innate. Formal logic is like grammar: 
it is assimilated in a "living" way even if the actual learning process 
has been necessarily schematic and abstract. For the learner is not 
a passive and mechanical recipient, a gramophone record — even 
if the liturgical conformity of examinations sometimes makes him 
appear so. The relation between these educational forms and the 
child's psychology is always active and creative, just as the relation 
of the worker to his tools is active and creative. A calibre is likewise 
a complex of abstractions, but without calibration it is not possible 
to produce real objects — real objects which are social relations, and 
which implicitly embody ideas. 

The child who sweats at Barbara, Baraliptori 1 - 6 is certainly per- 
forming a tiring task, and it is important that he does only what is 
absolutely necessary and no more. But it is also true that it will 
always be an effort to learn physical self-discipline and self-control; 
the pupil has, in effect, to undergo a psycho-physical training. 
Many people have to be persuaded that studying too is a job, and 
a very tiring one, with its own particular apprenticeship — involving 
muscles and nerves as well as intellect. It is a process of adaptation, 
a habit acquired with effort, tedium and even suffering. Wider 
participation in secondary education brings with it a tendency to 
ease off the discipline of studies, and to ask for "relaxations". Many 
even think that the difficulties of learning are artificial, since they 
are accustomed to think only of manual work as sweat and toil. 
The question is a complex one. Undoubtedly the child of a tradi- 
tionally intellectual family acquires this psycho-physical adaptation 
more easily. Before he ever enters the class-room he has numerous 
advantages over his comrades, and is already in possession of atti- 
tudes learnt from his family environment: he concentrates more 
easily, since he is used to "sitting still", etc. Similarly, the son of a 
city worker suffers less when he goes to work in a factory than does a 
peasant's child or a young peasant already formed by country life. 
(Even diet has its importance, etc.) This is why many people think 

16 Barbara, Baralipton, were mnemonic words used to memorise syllogisms in 
classical logic. 



that the difficulty of study conceals some "trick" which handicaps 
them — that is, when they do not simply believe that they are stupid 
by nature. They see the "gentleman" 17 — and for many, especially 
in the country, "gentleman" means intellectual — complete, speedily 
and with apparent ease, work which costs their sons tears and 
blood, and they think there is a "trick". In the future, these questions 
may become extremely acute and it will be necessary to resist the 
tendency to render easy that which cannot become easy without 
being distorted. If our aim is to produce a new stratum of intel- 
lectuals, including those capable of the highest degree of specialisa- 
tion, from a social group which has not traditionally developed the 
appropriate attitudes, then we have unprecedented difficulties to 

17 Signore. On this term, not of course an exact equivalent of "gentleman" , 
see below p. 272. 




Gramsci planned to organise his notes on Italian history into a study 
to be entitled "Reformation, Renaissance". Although, in the event, 
a comparatively small proportion of his historical writing was 
concerned with the specific historical phenomena normally under- 
stood by these designations, nevertheless Gramsci's title does 
perhaps offer us a starting-point from which to attempt to isolate 
the basic preoccupations and the basic concepts with which he 
approached the historical experience of Italy. 

Gramsci distinguishes between two quite distinct "Renaissances" : 
". . . the Renaissance was a vast movement, which started after the 
year iooo, and of which Humanism and the Renaissance (in the 
narrow sense of the word) were two closing moments — moments 
which were primarily located in Italy, whereas the more general 
historical process was European and not only Italian. Humanism 
and the Renaissance, as the literary expression of this European 
historical movement, were located primarily in Italy; but the 
progressive movement after the year iooo, although an important 
part of it took place in Italy with the Communes, precisely in Italy 
degenerated . . . while in the rest of Europe the general movement 
culminated in the national states and then in the world expansion 
of Spain, France, England, Portugal. In Italy what corresponded 
to the national states of these countries was the organisation of the 
Papacy as an absolute state . . . which divided the rest of Italy, 
etc. . . . The Renaissance may be viewed as the cultural expression 
of an historical process in which there was created in Italy a new 
intellectual class of European dimensions. This class divided into 
two branches: one exercised a cosmopolitan function in Italy, 
linked to the Papacy and reactionary in character; the other was 
formed outside Italy, from political and religious exiles, and 
exercised a progressive cosmopolitan function in the various 
countries where it existed, or participated in the organisation of the 
modern states as a technical element in the armed forces, in politics, 
in engineering, etc." 

Thus contained in the term "Renaissance" are a number of 
Gramsci's key concerns: the failure of the Italian Communal 
bourgeoisie (see note 4 on p. 53) to transcend the "economic- 
corporate" phase and create a national state; the specific historical 



backwardness of Italy which resulted; the regressive "cosmopolitan" 
characteristics of the traditional Italian intellectuals, linked to the 
role of the Papacy, etc. 

The term "Reformation" is likewise not a simple, or univocal one 
for Gramsci. In so far as he used it to stress popular participation, 
which he saw as a characteristic of Lutheranism and Calvinism in 
contrast to the Renaissance, it may be questioned to what extent 
this corresponds to historical reality. Gramsci sees Marxism as 
involving a "reformation": "The philosophy of praxis corresponds 
to the nexus Protestant Reformation plus French Revolution: it is 
a philosophy which is also a politics and a politics which is also a 
philosophy." (See too "Brief Notes on Machiavelli's Politics" on 
pp. 132-3.) Here we find one of the couples of opposed but dia- 
lectically united concepts which run through Gramsci's work, and 
whose shifting, and by no means always consistent combinations 
make it so hard to arrive at any definitive interpretation of his 
thought. Revolution/Reformation here can be related to the other 
Gramscian couplets State/civil society, force/consent, domination/ 
leadership, war of manoeuvre/war of position, etc. which recur 
throughout the Prison Notebooks. (See, e.g., p. 170 and note 71 on 
that page.) 

The major focus, in the event, of Gramsci's historical writing was 
the Risorgimento. He began his analysis by a statement of "the 
methodological criterion on which our own study must be based . . . 
that the supremacy of a social group manifests itself in two ways, 
as "domination" and as "intellectual and moral leadership". The 
Risorgimento, for Gramsci, was characterised by an absence of the 
second element, and concretely by an absence of an Italian equiva- 
lent of the Jacobins. (What Gramsci meant by "Jacobin" will be 
discussed more fully in the introduction to "The Modern Prince" 
below. He saw the essence of "Jacobinism" as the subordination of 
the "countryside" to the "city" in an organic relationship, i.e. the 
organising of peasant "consent".) 

The basic problem confronting Gramsci was that of identifying 
the specific weaknesses of the Italian national state which emerged 
from the Risorgimento — weaknesses which culminated in the advent 
to power of Fascism sixty years later. His analysis was a complex 
one, whose point of departure was the question of what the 
Risorgimento was not. Mazzini and the Action Party, the potential 
"Jacobins", did not make any attempt to rouse the peasantry and 
draw it into the process of national unification; they did not 
promote any agrarian reform. Consequently, they failed to give the 



Risorgimento any popular dimension or themselves any solid class 
base. (Incidentally, this aspect of Gramsci's historical writing has 
given rise to a major historical debate in Italy : see Romario Roseo's 
thesis — developed in Risorgimento e capitalismo (1956-58) — that the 
absence of an agrarian reform in fact played a "progressive" role 
in relation to the growth of Italian industrial capitalism, and also 
the debate between Romeo and Gerschenkron in La formazione 
dell 'Italia industriale (1963).) The result was that "what was involved 
was not a social group which 'led' other groups, but a State 
[Piedmont] which, even though it had limitations as a power, 'lad' 
the group which should have been 'leading' ". What was involved 
was a "passive revolution". 

Gramsci's use of the term "passive revolution" is one of the 
cruxes of his political thought. The term originated with Vincenzo 
Cuoco (see note 11 on p. 5g), who used it at first to describe the lack 
of mass participation in the Neapolitan revolution of 1 799 and the 
latter's "external" origins; subsequently Cuoco came to advocate 
such "passive revolutions" as preferable to violent ones involving 
the popular masses on the French model. (Incidentally, Lenin also 
uses the term in The Crisis of Menshevism (igo6), but there is no 
evidence that Gramsci knew this text.) Gramsci also uses the 
expression in two distinct ways : firstly, in something close to Cuoco's 
original sense, as a revolution without mass participation (and due 
in large part to outside forces) — e.g. the Risorgimento; secondly, 
as a "molecular" social transformation which takes place as it were 
beneath the surface of society, in situations where the progressive 
class cannot advance openly — e.g. the progress of the bourgeoisie in 
Restoration France after 1815 ("revolution/restoration" : see p. 1 ig), 
or the development of Christianity within the Roman Empire. 

Although Gramsci condemns explicitly any advocacy of "passive 
revolution" as a programme, his use of the term is often ambiguous. 
This is especially the case where he tentatively relates it to "war of 
position", itself by no means a consistent or univocal concept in 
Gramsci's writing (see introduction to "State and Civil Society"). 
On the other hand, Gramsci makes use of the notion of "passive 
revolution" to confront certain of the central problems of revolu- 
tionary analysis and strategy. In the two final passages in this 
section, in which he comments on Croce's historiography and also 
on his contemporary role, and again in the section entitled "Ameri- 
canism and Fordism" below, Gramsci relates the concept of passive 
revolution to the Italian fascist regime. Viewing the latter as a 
transitional, compromise form comparable in some ways to the rule 



of Napoleon III, he asks a series of questions. What modification in 
the fundamental balance of social forces is taking place beneath the 
surface of fascism? How is Croce organising the long-term "consent" 
to bourgeois rule? What is the significance of the forms of State 
intervention in the economy which were common to New Deal 
America and. to Fascist Italy? What are the fundamental economic 
contradictions under Fascism, and how will these be expressed, 
politically? How can the working class develop and retain some 
degree of class organisation and consciousness even under the 
corporate State? 

Gramsci does not offer clear answers to all these questions. The 
sense of the analogy he draws between the post-1815 period in 
Europe and the period in which he is writing (see final sentences of 
this section) is simply to reaffirm that even when frontal attack may 
be impossible, a passive revolution may nonetheless be taking place ; 
that the class struggle continues despite the surface stability of the 
fascist regime. Yet here we approach one of the supreme paradoxes 
of Gramsci's thought, a dilemma to which he found no answer. For 
there is precisely a radical dissimilarity between the situation of the 
bourgeoisie under feudal or pre-bourgeois forms of State and that of 
the proletariat under bourgeois rule. In the former case, capitalist 
relations of production can develop within the feudal State, until 
at a certain point in time the "carapace" cracks. In the latter case, 
however, this is not so. It is quite impossible for socialist relations 
of production to develop "within" capitalism. It is unquestionably 
for this reason that whenever Gramsci touches on this dilemma — 
which is also the question of how fascism can be overthrown — he 
tends to pose questions rather than make assertions. Since no 
fascist regime has yet been overthrown by internal forces, it is to 
his credit that he refused any easy, or unilateral formula, but 
contented himself with rejecting the twin, undialectical deviations 
of frontal attack and "liquidationism". Clearly these problems are 
closely related too to Gramsci's statement that "A social group can, 
and indeed must, already 'lead' [i.e. be hegemonic] before winning 
governmental power (this indeed is one of the principal conditions 
for the winning of such power)." For this, see introduction to 
"State and Civil Society". 


a.d. 476 Final extinction of the Roman Empire in the West, 
followed by periods of Ostrogoth and Lombard rule in 


what is now Italy — punctuated by attempts to extend 
Byzantine power, especially in the South. 
Eighth Rise of the Papacy as a territorial power; annexation 

Century of the Lombard kingdom by Charlemagne. 
800 Charlemagne crowned as Holy Roman Emperor. 

912 Otto of Saxony crowned Holy Roman Emperor as 

Otto I. For the next four centuries and more, Italian 
history was dominated by the struggle for supremacy 
between the German Emperors and the Papacy. In 
the South, Sicily was held by the Arabs (827-1072), 
then the Normans until 1 1 89, when the Hohenstaufen 
Emperor Henry VI inherited it by marriage. 
Twelfth Emergence in North and Central Italy of the "Corn- 
Century munes". The prosperous trading and manufacturing 
towns which grew up during this period formed self- 
governing republics which controlled the surrounding 
contado. The German Emperors saw the emergence of 
these towns as a threat, and supported the feudal 
Thirteenth landowners (who were the basis for the Ghibelline 
Century party) against them. The Papacy supported the 
burghers and merchants who constituted the Guelph 
party. In the internecine struggles between the cities, 
and within them between the rival parties, the feudal 
landowning class was effectively wiped out in North 
and Central Italy by about 1300. It was during the 
thirteenth century that Italian emerged as a literary 
language, first in Sicily at the court of Frederick II, 
and subsequently in Tuscany with Dante ( 1 265- 13 2 1 ) . 
Fourteenth The mediaeval communes became dominated by 
Century their Signorie or councils of notables — and in time, in 
most cases, by one powerful family dynasty. From 
1300 onwards, five states were dominant in Italy: 
Florence, Milan, Venice, the Papal state, and the 
Kingdom of Naples (ruled by the dynasty of Anjou). 
Sicily (which had thrown off Angevin rule itself in 
1282: the Angevins had acquired the island by 
marriage in 1265) from 1302 had Aragonese rulers. 
In 1347-48, a probable third (up to 60 per cent in 
certain cities) of the population of Italy died in the 
Black Death. 

Fifteenth The family dynasties which dominated the city-states 
Century of North and Central Italy were mostly legitimised by 



Pope or Emperor: the Signoria gave way to the 
Principato. The Renaissance (in the conventional, 
narrow sense) flowered in Medici Florence, Sforza 
Milan, Papal Rome, and in a host of smaller cities. 
Venice remained a republic. In 1442 Alphonse of 
Aragon succeeded to the Kingdom of Naples (he 
already ruled Sicily). 
1494 Two years after the death of Lorenzo de' Medici, 

Charles VIII of France invaded Italy to claim the 
crown of Naples. By 1529, Milan and Naples were 
under Spanish rule. Machiavelli (1469-152 7) wrote 
precisely during this period of foreign invasions and 
maximum disunity among the Italian states. 
Sixteenth— Italy was largely under foreign domination or out- 
Eighteenth right occupation. Naples (i.e. virtually the whole of 
Centuries mainland Italy South of Rome) was Spanish until 
1 713, Austrian until 1735, and was ruled by a Spanish 
Bourbon dynasty until the approach of Napoleon's 
armies and the proclamation of the Parthenopean 
Republic in 1798. Milan was Spanish until 1713, 
Austrian thereafter until the Napoleonic conquest of 
1796. Florence lost its independence in 1532 and was 
merged into the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, which was 
effectively an Austrian puppet state from 1737. The 
Papal State remained formally independent, as did 
the Venetian Republic, until the advent of Napoleon, 
in 1797-98. Various other small states existed as 
independent entities in Central Italy during this 
period: Parma, Genoa, Lucca, Massa-Carrara, Mo- 
dena, etc. Sicily was ceded by Spain to the Duke 
of Savoy in 1 7 1 3 ; by Savoy to Austria in 1720; in 
1738 it was united with Naples under the Spanish 
Bourbons. Lastly, Savoy emerged as a powerful state 
in the seventeenth century; in 1 713 the Duke of Savoy 
acquired Sicily, but in 1720 was forced to exchange 
the latter for Sardinia — whereafter his realm became 
known as the Kingdom of Sardinia (although its main 
territory was in fact what is now Piedmont). 
1 796-18 1 5 The Napoleonic invasion and occupation temporarily 
united Italy, and had a lasting impact on the political 
and social life of the territory. 
18 1 5 Congress of Vienna. Austria became the dominant 


power throughout the Italian peninsula; she occupied 
Lombardy, the Veneto and the statelets of central 
Italy, and protected the restored Bourbons in Naples, 
the Papacy, and the Kingdom of Sardinia (Sardinia 
and Piedmont). 

Carbonarist risings in Piedmont and Naples were 

suppressed with Austrian assistance. 

Risings in Modena, Parma, and especially in the 

Papal states were suppressed by the Austrians. 

Abortive Mazzinian rising, led by Ramorino, at 

Genoa against the Savoy monarchy of Sardinia and 


Anti-Austrian risings throughout North and Central 
Italy. The Piedmont monarchy had by now set its 
sights on becoming the nucleus and hegemonic force 
of a united Italy. In March 1848 King Carlo Alberto 
proclaimed that Italy would "go it alone", and 
declared war on Austria. In May 1848 the Milanese 
rose in the "Five Days" insurrection, and drove the 
Austrians out of the city. A republic was proclaimed 
once again in Venice, under Manin. In January 1849, 
a Roman Republic was declared. However, in March 
1849 the Piedmontese were defeated by the Austrians 
at Novara, and in the following months the Austrians 
re-established total supremacy; Rome fell in June, 
and Venice in August. 
Anti- Austrian rising in Milan suppressed. 
Piedmont, under Cavour's ministry, participated 
somewhat symbolically in the Crimean War on the 
French side, as the opening move in a determined 
diplomatic bid for French support. 
Alliance signed between France and Piedmont. 
War between France and Piedmont on the one hand 
and Austria on the other. After victories at Magenta 
and Solferino, Piedmont received Lombardy from 
Austria, and in turn ceded Nice and Savoy to France. 
The Central Italian states (with the exception of the 
Papal state) joined Piedmont. Garibaldi's expedition 
to Sicily finally toppled the Bourbon dynasty of the 
Two Sicilies. 

Kingdom of Italy proclaimed, with its capital at 
Turin, and subsequently (1864) at Florence. 



1866 Prussia defeated Austria; Italy, as Prussia's ally, 
received the Veneto. 

1867 French troops prevented Garibaldi from marching on 
Rome, defeating him at Mentana. 

1870 During the Franco-Prussian War, the French troops 

withdrew and the Piedmontese army occupied Rome, 
which became the capital of a united Italy. The Pope 
refused to accept the end of his territorial power or the 
legitimacy of the new Italian state, and withdrew 
symbolically into the Vatican. 

1 885 Italian imperialist expansion into Eritrea and Somalia. 

1 9 1 2 Italian occupation o f Libya. 

igi5 Italy intervened in the First World War on the side 

of Britain and France; at the end of the war, she was 
rewarded by the acquisition of Trieste, the Trentino 
and South Tyrol, at the expense of Austria. 

This extremely schematic chronology notably excludes post- 
Risorgimento, internal Italian politics — which is extensively covered 
by Gramsci's text, and in the footnotes to it. 



The historical unity of the ruling classes is realised in the State, and 
their history is essentially the history of States and of groups of 
States. But it would be wrong to think that this unity is simply 
juridical and political (though such forms of unity do have their 
importance too, and not in a purely formal sense) ; the fundamental 
historical unity, concretely, results from the organic relations 
between State or political society and "civil society". 1 

The subaltern classes, by definition, are not unified and cannot 
unite until they are able to become a "State": their history, there- 
fore, is intertwined with that of civil society, and thereby with the 
history of States and groups of States. Hence it is necessary to study: 
I. the objective formation of the subaltern social groups, by the 
developments and transformations occurring in the sphere of 
economic production; their quantitative diffusion and their origins 
in pre-existing social groups, whose mentality, ideology and aims 
they conserve for a time; 2. their active or passive affiliation to the 
dominant political formations, their attempts to influence the pro- 
grammes of these formations in order to press claims of their own, 
and the consequences of these attempts in determining processes 
of decomposition, renovation or neo-formation; 3. the birth of new 
parties of the dominant groups, intended to conserve the assent of 
the subaltern groups and to maintain control over them; 4. the 
formations which the subaltern groups themselves produce, in order 
to press claims of a limited and partial character; 5. those new 
formations which assert the autonomy of the subaltern groups, but 
within the old framework; 6. those formations which assert the 
integral autonomy, . . . etc. 2 

The list of these phases can be broken down still further, with 
intermediate phases and combinations of several phases. The 
historian must record, and discover the causes of, the line of develop- 
ment towards integral autonomy, starting from the most primitive 
phases; he must note every manifestation of the Sorelian "spirit of 
cleavage". 3 Therefore, the history of the parties of the subaltern 
groups is very complex too. It must include all the repercussions of 

1 For Gramsci's use of the term "civil society", see introduction to Stale and Civil 
Society, pp. 206-9. 

* The last three categories refer presumably to trade unions, reformist parties, 
and communist parties respectively. 
3 See note 4 on p. 126. 



party activity, throughout the area of the subaltern groups them- 
selves taken globally, and also upon the attitudes of the dominant 
group; it must include as well the repercussions of the far more 
effective actions (effective because backed by the State) of the 
dominant groups upon the subaltern groups and their parties. 
Among the subaltern groups, one will exercise or tend to exercise a 
certain hegemony through the mediation of a party ; this must be 
established by studying the development of all the other parties 
too, in so far as they include elements of the hegemonic group or of 
the other subaltern groups which undergo such hegemony. 

Numerous principles of historical research can be established by 
examining the innovatory forces which led the national Risorgi- 
mento in Italy: these forces took power and united in the modern 
Italian State, in struggle against specific other forces and helped by 
specific auxiliaries or allies. In order to become a State, they had to 
subordinate or eliminate the former and win the active or passive 
assent of the latter. A study of how these innovatory forces developed, 
from subaltern groups to hegemonic and dominant groups, must 
therefore seek out and identify the phases through which they 
acquired: i. autonomy vis-a-vis the enemies they had to defeat, and 
2. support from the groups which actively or passively assisted them; 
for this entire process was historically necessary before they could 
unite in the form of a State. It is precisely by these two yardsticks 
that the level of historical and political consciousness which the 
innovatory forces progressively attained in the various phases can 
be measured — and not simply by the yardstick of their separation 
from the formerly dominant forces. Usually the latter is the only 
criterion adopted, and the result is a unilateral history — or some- 
times total incomprehension, as in the case of the history of Italy, 
since the era of the Communes. The Italian bourgeoisie was 
incapable of uniting the people around itself, and this was the cause 
of its defeats and the interruptions in its development. 4 

In the Risorgimento too, the same narrow egoism prevented a 

' Clearly the fate of the mediaeval communes in Italy i.e. the autonomous 
city-states and the failure of their bourgeoisies to unite nationally is one of the 
fundamental problems for Italian historiography, and it recurs throughout the 
Prison Notebooks, though in particularly fragmentary form, e.g. "This book of 
Barbadoro's [on the finances of the Florentine Commune] is indispensable for 
seeing precisely how the communal bourgeoisie did not succeed in transcending 
the economic-corporate phase, i.e. in creating a State 'with the consent of the 
governed' and capable of developing. The development of the State proved 
possible only as a principality, not as a communal republic". (Ris., p. 9). "On 
the fact that the communal bourgeoisie did not succeed in transcending the 
corporative phase and hence cannot be said to have created a State, since it was 



rapid and vigorous revolution like the French one. This is one of the 
most important problems, one of the most fertile causes of serious 
difficulties, in writing the history of the subaltern social groups and 
hence the (past) history tout court of the Italian States. 

The history of subaltern social groups is necessarily fragmented 

rather the Church and the Empire which constituted States, i.e. on the fact that 
the Communes did not transcend feudalism, it is necessary before writing anything, 
to read Gioacchino Volpe's book II Medioevo." (Ris., p. 10). "It is necessary to 
determine what significance the 'State' had in the Communal State: a limited 
'corporative' significance, which meant that it was unable to develop beyond 
middle feudalism, i.e. that which succeeded the absolute feudalism without a 
third estate, so to speak which had existed before the year a.d. iooo, and which 
was itself succeeded by the absolute monarchy in the fifteenth century, up to the 
French Revolution. There was an organic transition from the Commune to a 
system that was no longer feudal in the Low Countries, and there alone. In Italy, 
the Communes were unable to go beyond the corporative phase, feudal anarchy 
triumphed in a form appropriate to the new situation and then came the period 
of foreign domination." (Ris., p. 18). In a note in which Gramsci sketches out a 
plan of historical research {II Risorgimento e la Storia Precedente, Ris., p. 3), he 
devotes a section to "Middle Ages, or epoch of the Communes, in which the new 
urban social groups are formed in molecular fashion, without the process reaching 
the higher phase of maturation as in France, Spain, etc.". Despite their frag- 
mentary character, Gramsci's notes on "The Mediaeval Commune as the 
economic-corporative phase of the modem State" are clearly fundamental to his 
entire analysis of the specificity of Italian historical development. See also, e.g. 
"A further criterion of research must be borne in mind, in order to emphasise the 
dangers inherent in the method of historical analogy as an interpretative criterion. 
In the ancient and mediaeval State alike, centralisation, whether political- 
territorial or social (and the one is merely a function of the other), was minimal. 
The State was, in a certain sense, a mechanical bloc of social groups, often of 
different race : within the circle of political-military compression, which was only 
exercised harshly at certain moments, the subaltern groups had a life of their own, 
institutions of their own, etc., and sometimes these institutions had State functions 
which made of the State a federation of social groups with disparate functions not 
subordinated in any way a situation which in periods of crisis highlighted with 
extreme clarity the phenomenon of 'dual power'. The only group excluded from 
any organised collective life of its own was that of the slaves (and such proletarians 
as were not slaves) in the classical world, and is that of the proletarians, the serfs 
and the peasants in the mediaeval world. However, even though, from many 
points of view, the slaves of the ancient world and the mediaeval proletariat were 
in the same conditions, their situation was not identical: the attempted revolt by 
the Ciompi [in Florence in 1378] certainly did not have the impact that a similar 
attempt by the slaves of antiquity would have produced (Spartacus demanding 
to be taken into the government in collaboration with the plebs, etc.). While in the 
Middle Ages an alliance between proletarians and people, and even more so the 
support of the proletarians for the dictatorship of a prince, was possible, nothing 
similar was possible for the slaves of the classical world. The modem State substi- 
tutes for the mechanical bloc of social groups their subordination to the active 
hegemony of the directive and dominant group, hence abolishes certain auto- 
nomies, which nevertheless are reborn in other forms, as parties, trade unions, 
cultural associations. The contemporary dictatorships legally abolish these new 
forms of autonomy as well, and strive to incorporate them within State activity: 
the legal centralisation of the entire national life in the hands of the dominant 
group becomes 'totalitarian'." (Ris., pp. 195-6.) 



and episodic. There undoubtedly does exist a tendency to (at least 
provisional stages- of) unification in the historical activity of these 
groups, but this tendency is continually interrupted by the activity 
of the ruling groups; it therefore can only be demonstrated when an 
historical cycle is completed and this cycle culminates in a success. 
Subaltern groups are always subject to the activity of ruling groups, 
even when they rebel and rise p: only "permanent" victory breaks 
their subordination, and thai not immediately. In reality, even 
when they appear triumphant, the subaltern groups are merely 
anxious to defend themselves (a truth which can be demonstrated 
by the history of the French Revolution at least up to 1830). Every 
trace of independent initiative on the part of subaltern groups 
should therefore be of incalculable value for the integral historian. 
Consequently, this kind of history can only be dealt with mono- 
graphically, and each monograph requires an immense quantity of 
material which is often hard to collect. [1934-35] 


The whole problem of the connection between the various political 
currents of the Risorgimento — of their relations with each other, 

5 There is a real problem in translating the Italian "dirigere" and its compounds: 
direzione, dirigente, diretto, direttivo, etc. Dirigere" means to "direct, lead, rule"; 
when, as here, Gramsci counterposes it to "dominare" we translate it "to lead". 
"Dirigente" is the present participle of "dirigere" — e.g. "classe dirigente" is the 
standard equivalent of "ruling class" — and as a noun is the normal word for 
(political) "leader" ; where Gramsci uses it, as in this passage, in counter position 
to "dominante" we have translated it as "leading". "Diretto" as an adjective means 
"direct", as a past participle has been translated "led". "Direttivo" has been 
translated "directive , although there is not really any such adjective in English. 
"Direzione" covers the various meanings of the word "direction" in English, but 
is also the normal word for "leadership", and has usually been translated as such 
here. It could be argued that a better English version would be achieved, without 
distorting Gramsci's thought, by regarding "direzione" and "egemonia" as inter- 
changeable. After all, not only does Gramsci usually use them interchangeably; it 
is also the case that, for example, in the standard English translation of Lenin, e.g. 
in "Two Tactics of Social-Democracy", the word "hegemony" is used to translate 
"rukovodstvo", which could equally well be translated "leadership", and would 
certainly normally be translated as "direzione" in Italian. However, in view of the 
importance of these concepts in Gramsci's work, and the variations in his usage 
of them, we felt it preferable to choose fidelity over good English — despite the 
awkwardness of "lead" and "leading" in some passages. 

Moreover, Gramsci certainly does not always use "egemonia" interchangeably 
with "direzione" he sometimes uses it as the equivalent of "direzione" plus 
"dominazione", e.g. in the last passage quoted in the preceding note. For Gramsci's 
more usual use of this important concept, see especially MS. pp. 201—2: "Croces* 
thought must therefore, at the very least, be appreciated as an instrumental value. 



and of their relations with the homogeneous or subordinate social 
groups existing in the various historical sections (or sectors) of the 
national territory — can be reduced to the following basic factual 

Thus it can be said that he has drawn attention energetically to the importance of 
cultural and intellectual facts in historical development; to the function of great 
intellectuals in the organic life of civil society and the State; to the moment of 
hegemony and consent as a necessary form of the concrete historical bloc. That 
this is not something 'futile' is proved by the fact that, contemporaneously with 
Croce, the greatest modern theoretician of the philosophy of praxis [Lenin], on 
the terrain of political struggle and organisation and with a political terminology, 
gave new weight in opposition to the various 'economist' tendencies to the 
front of cultural struggle, and constructed the doctrine of hegemony as a comple- 
ment to the theory of the State-as-force, and as the present form of the Forty- 
Eightist doctrine of 'permanent revolution'. For the philosophy of praxis, the 
conception of ethical-political history, in as much as it is independent of any 
realistic conception, can be accepted as an 'empirical canon' of historical research, 
to be kept continually in mind while studying and analysing historical develop- 
ment, if it is desired to arrive at an integral history and not one that is partial 
and extrinsic (history of economic forces as such, etc.)." See too LC. pp. 482-83: 
"My study on intellectuals is a vast project. . . . Moreover, I extend the notion of 
intellectual considerably, and do not limit myself to the habitual meaning, which 
refers only to great intellectuals. This study also leads to certain determinations of 
the concept of State, which is usually understood as political society (or dictator- 
ship ; or coercive apparatus to bring the mass of the people into conformity with 
the specific type of production and the specific economy at a given moment) and 
not as an equilibrium between political society and civil society (or hegemony of 
a social group over the entire national society exercised through the so-called 
private organisations, like the Church, the trade unions, the schools, etc.) ; it is 
precisely in civil society that intellectuals operate especially (Benedetto Croce, for 
example, is a kind of lay pope and an extremely efficient instrument of hegemony — 
even if at times he may find himself in disagreement with one government or 
another, etc.). This conception of the function of intellectuals, I believe, throws 
light on the reason, or one of the reasons, for the fall of the mediaeval communes, 
i.e. of the rule of an economic class which did not prove able to create its own 
category of intellectuals and thus exercise a hegemony as well as a dictatorship. 
The Italian intellectuals did not have a national-popular character, but one that 
was cosmopolitan on the model of the Church ; it was a matter of indifference to 
Leonardo whether he sold the designs for the fortifications of Florence to Duke 
Valentino. The Communes were thus a syndicalist state, which did not succeed 
in transcending this phase and becoming an integral State as Machiavelli vainly 
urged; the latter attempted, by reorganising the army, to organise the hegemony 
of the city over the countryside, and he can therefore be called the first Italian 
Jacobin (the second was Carlo Cattaneo, but he had too many strange fancies 
in his head). It thus follows that the Renaissance should be considered a re- 
actionary and repressive movement, in contrast to the development of the 
Communes, etc." See too NM. p. 160: "Hegemony and Democracy. Of the 
many meanings of democracy, the most realistic and concrete one in my view can 
be worked out in relation to the concept of 'hegemony'. In the hegemonic system, 
there exists democracy between the 'leading' group and the groups which are 
'led', in so far as the development of the economy and thus the legislation which 
expresses such development favour the (molecular) passage from the 'led' groups 
to the 'leading' group. In the Roman Empire there was an imperial-territorial 
democracy in the concession of citizenship to the conquered peoples, etc. There 
could be no democracy under feudalism, because of the constitution of the closed 
groups [i.e. estates, corporations, etc.] etc." 

In an earlier draft of 1920-30, this long note on the Risorgimento was entitled 



datum. The Moderates 6 represented a relatively homogeneous 
social group, and hence their leadership underwent relatively 
limited oscillations (in any case, subject to an organically pro- 
gressive line of development) ; whereas the so-called Action Party 7 
did not base itself specifically on any historical class, and the 
oscillations which its leading organs underwent were resolved, in 
the last analysis, according to the interests of the Moderates. In 
other words, the Action Party was led historically by the Moderates. 
The assertion attributed to Victor Emmanuel II that he "had the 
Action Party in his pocket", or something of the kind, was in 
practice accurate — not only because of the King's personal contacts 
with Garibaldi, but because the Action Party was in fact "indirectly" 
led by Cavour and the King. 

The methodological criterion on which our own study must be 
based is the following : that the supremacy of a social group mani- 
fests itself in two ways, as "domination" and as "intellectual and 
moral leadership". A social group dominates antagonistic groups, 
which it tends to "liquidate", or to subjugate perhaps even by armed 
force; it leads kindred and allied groups. A social group can, and 
indeed must, already exercise "leadership" before winning govern- 
mental power (this indeed is one of the principal conditions for the 
winning of such power) ; it subsequently becomes dominant when 

"Class political leadership before and after attaining governmental power". Two 
of its key passages then read as follows: "... a class is dominant in two ways, i.e. 
'leading' and 'dominant'. It leads the classes which are its allies, and dominates 
those which are its enemies. Therefore, even before attaining power a class can 
(and must) 'lead'; when it is in power it becomes dominant, but continues to 
'lead' as well . . . there can and must be a 'political hegemony* even before the 
attainment of governmental power, and one should not count solely on the power 
and material force which such a position gives in order to exercise political leader- 
ship or hegemony." 

* The Moderate Party, formally constituted in 1848, had grown out of the 
neo-Guelph movement (see note 9 on p. 58) . Its first document was C. Balbo's 
Le speranze (Tltalia (1844), and its ideas inspired the reforms of 1846-47. It stood 
initially for a confederation of the Italian States, and demanded reforms and written 
constitutions in each state. It was to some extent eclipsed in 1849, but its influence 
increased during the ten years from 1849 5g, under the leadership of d'Azeglio 
and Cavour. It abandoned federalism, and was in fact the main instrument, at the 
level of political institutions, of national unification in 1859-61, and the main 
beneficiary of the Risorgimento. After Cavour's death in 1861, it became the 
Right in the Italian parliament, and held power until 1876. 

' The Partito d'Aziane was founded by Mazzini in March 1853, after the defeat 
of the February rising in Milan and the dissolution of the Associazione Naziondle 
Italiana. It was republican, but its ambiguous aims were symbolised by its motto 
"Dio e popolo" (God and the people) . After several years of tenuous existence, it 
was revitalised by Garibaldi's influence in 1 859, and played an important role in 
the organisation of the Sicilian expedition of the Thousand. After the unification 
of the country, most of its members joined the parliamentary "Left", a minority 
the tiny Republican Party. 


it exercises power, but even if it holds it firmly in its grasp, it must 
continue to "lead" as well. The Moderates continued to lead the 
Action Party even after 1870 and 1876, and so-called "trans- 
formism" 8 was only the parliamentary expression of this action of 
intellectual, moral and political hegemony. Indeed one might say 
that the entire State life of Italy from 1848 onwards has been 
characterised by transformism — in other words by the formation of 
an ever more extensive ruling class, within the framework estab- 
lished by the Moderates after 1848 and the collapse of the neo- 
Guelph 9 and federalist 10 Utopias. The formation of this class involved 

8 Trasformismo. This term was used from the 1880s onwards to describe the 
process whereby the so-called "historic" Left and Right parties which emerged 
from the Risorgimento tended to converge in terms of programme during the 
years which followed, until there ceased to be any substantive difference between 
them especially after the "Left" came to power under Depretis in 1876 (see 
note 23 on p. 227 below) and the latter began to recruit his ministers indis- 
criminately from both sides of the parliament. The two main parties disintegrated 
into personal cliques and factions, which characterised Italian parliamentary life 
until fascism. The emergence of the Socialist Party from the turn of the century 
onwards did begin a process of polarisation of politics along class lines a process 
which was arrested by fascism before the bourgeoisie had created a viable political 
party of its own (although the Popular Party see note 14 on p. 62 was an attempt 
to do this). See too Gramsci's note (Ris. p. 157) entitled It trasformismo: "Trans- 
formism as one of the historical forms of what has already been noted about 
'revolution-restoration' or 'passive revolution', with respect to the process of 
formation of a modern State in Italy. Transformism as a 'real historical document' 
of the real nature of the parties which appeared as extremist in the period of 
militant activity [Parliio d'Azione) . Two periods of transformism : 1. from i860 to 
igoo 'molecular' transformism, i.e. individual political figures formed by the 
democratic opposition parties are incorporated individually into the conservative- 
moderate 'political class' (characterised by its aversion to any intervention of the 
popular masses in state life, to any organic reform which would substitute a 
'hegemony' for the crude, dictatorial 'dominance') ; 2. from 1 900 onwards trans- 
formism of entire groups of leftists who pass over to the moderate camp (the first 
event is the formation of the nationalist party, with ex syndicalist and anarchist 
groups, which culminates in the Libyan war in the first instance and subsequently 
in interventionism) . Between the two periods one can discern an intermediate 
phase (1890- igoo) in which a mass of intellectuals joins the parties of the Left 
so-called socialist, but in reality simply democratic." See too note 6 on p. 57. 

6 Neo-Guelphism was a liberal catholic movement in Italy in the first half of 
the nineteenth century. The term was coined by its enemies (the Guelphs had 
been the Papal party in mediaeval and pre-renaissance Italy), but was accepted 
by its members who were quite willing to be identified with the pre-renaissance 
Papacy, which they saw as symbolising Italian unity and independence. Their 
aim was an Italian federation under the Pope. Prominent neo-Guelphs included 
Gioberti (see note 36 on p. 399) and Manzoni, the author of The Betrothed (see 
note 73 on p. 375). The movement's ideals were definitively proved illusory when 
the Risorgimento created a national Italian state under the Piedmont monarchy, 
and when the Pope refused to come to terms with that state; most of its members 
in fact then rallied to the monarchy. It can be seen as a precursor of the Popular 
Party (see note 14 on p. 62) and hence ultimately of the Christian Democrat 
Party of today. 

10 There were various federalist tendencies in pre-Risorgimento Italy, in 



the gradual but continuous absorption, achieved by methods which 
varied in their effectiveness, of the active elements produced by 
allied groups — and even of those which came from antagonistic 
groups and seemed irreconcilably hostile. In this sense political 
leadership became merely an aspect of the function of domination — 
in as much as the absorption of the enemies' elites means their 
decapitation, and annihilation often for a very long time. It seems 
clear from the policies of the Moderates that there can, and indeed 
must, be hegemonic activity even before the rise to power, and that 
one should not count only on the material force which power gives 
in order, to exercise an effective leadership. It was precisely the 
brilliant solution of these problems which made the Risorgimento 
possible, in the form in which it was achieved (and with its limita- 
tions) — as "revolution" without a "revolution", or as "passive 
revolution" to use an expression of Cuoco's in a slightly different 
sense from that which Cuoco intended. 11 

In what forms, and by what means, did the Moderates succeed 
in establishing the apparatus (mechanism) of their intellectual, 
moral and political hegemony ? In forms, and by means, which may 

opposition to the unitary conception of the future Italian state held on the one 
hand by Mazzini and Garibaldi, and on the other by Cavour and the Piedmont 
monarchy. These tendencies ranged from the neo-Guelph federalism of Gioberti 
and the moderate liberal federalism of Balbo and d'Azeglio (see foregoing notes) 
to the radical liberal federalism of Cattaneo (see note 112 on p. 112) and the 
democratic-republican federalism of Ferrari (see note 23 on p. 65). 

11 Vincenzo Cuoco (1770-1823) was a Neapolitan conservative thinker of great 
influence in the early stages of the Risorgimento. He played a minor role in the 
Parthenopean Republic of 1 79,9, (see note 63 on p. 92) —out of a sense of public duty 
(he was a life long functionary) rather than out of any particular commitment to 
its ideals and was exiled in consequence. In exile he read Burke and De Maistre, 
and came to the view that revolution must at all costs be avoided, since it was a 
destroyer of the "traditions" on which civilisation is based. In his "Historical 
Essay on the Neapolitan Republic of 1 799", he described the episode as a passive 
revolution, because it was the work of an "enlightened" bourgeois class, "abstract 
rationalists", "Jacobins", imitating French models (and backed by French armies), 
and involved no mass participation. In the years which followed he came, para- 
doxically, to argue precisely in favour of such "passive revolutions", in that his 
main thesis was the need to put through reforms in order to prevent revolution on 
the French model. He was an enthusiastic supporter of Napoleonic rule, and 
became a public official under it (1806 15). He can be seen as the theorist 
of what Gramsci termed (after Edgar Quinet) "revolution-restoration". See 
MS. pp. 184 85: "One should study the way in which the critical formula of 
Vincenzo Cuoco on the 'passive revolutions', which when it was formulated (after 
the tragic experiment of the Parthenopean Republic of 1799) was meant as a 
warning, to create a national mood of greater energy and popular revolutionary 
initiative, was converted in the minds of the neo-Guelphs and Moderates, in their 
state of social panic, into a positive conception, into a political programme . . . the 
determination to abdicate and capitulate at the first serious threat of an Italian 
revolution that would be profoundly popular, i.e. radically national." 



be called "liberal" — in other words through individual, "molecular", 
"private" enterprise (i.e. not through a party programme worked 
out and constituted according to a plan, in advance of the practical 
and organisational action). However, that was "normal" given the 
structure and the function of the social groups of which the 
Moderates were the representatives, the leading stratum, the 
organic intellectuals. 12 

For the Action Party, the problem presented itself differently, 
and different systems of organisation should have been adopted. 
The Moderates were intellectuals already naturally "condensed" 
by the organic nature of their relation to the social groups whose 
expression they were. (As far as a whole series of them were con- 
cerned, there was realised the identity of the represented and the 
representative; in other words, the Moderates were a real, organic 
vanguard of the upper classes, to which economically they belonged. 
They were intellectuals and political organisers, and at the same 
time company bosses, rich farmers or estate managers, commercial 
and industrial entrepreneurs, etc.) Given this organic condensation 
or concentration, the Moderates exercised a powerful attraction 
"spontaneously", on the whole mass of intellectuals of every degree 
who existed in the peninsula, in a "diffused", "molecular" state, to 
provide for the requirements, however rudimentarily satisfied, of 
education and administration. One may detect here the methodo- 
logical consistency of a criterion of historico-political research: there 
does not exist any independent class of intellectuals, but every social 
group has its own stratum of intellectuals, or tends to form one; 
however, the intellectuals of the historically (and concretely) pro- 
gressive class, in the given conditions, exercise such a power of 
attraction that, in the last analysis, they end up by subjugating the 
intellectuals of the other social groups; they thereby create a system 
of solidarity between all the intellectuals, with bonds of a psycho- 
logical nature (vanity, etc.) and often of a caste character (technico- 
juridical, corporate, etc.). This phenomenon manifests itself 
"spontaneously" in the historical periods in which the given social 
group is really progressive — i.e. really causes the whole society to 
move forward, not merely satisfying its own existential require- 
ments, but continuously augmenting its cadres for the conquest of 
ever new spheres of economic and productive activity. As soon as 
the dominant social group has exhausted its function, the ideological 

12 For the concept of "organic intellectuals", see "The Formation of the 
Intellectuals" on pp. 5 14 above. 



bloc tends to crumble away; then "spontaneity" may be replaced 
by "constraint" in ever less disguised and indirect forms, culmina- 
ting in outright police measures and coups d'etat. 

The Action Party not only could not have — given its character — 
a similar power of attraction, but was itself attracted and influenced: 
on the one hand, as a result of the atmosphere of intimidation (panic 
fear of a terror like that of 1 793, reinforced by the events in France 
of 1848-49) which made it hesitate to include in its programme 
certain popular demands (for instance, agrarian reform) ; and, on 
the other, because certain of its leading personalities (Garibaldi) 
had, even if only desultorily (they wavered), a relationship of 
personal subordination to the Moderate leaders. For the Action 
Party to have become an autonomous force and, in the last analysis, 
for it to have succeeded at the very least in stamping the movement 
of the Risorgimento with a more markedly popular and democratic 
character (more than that perhaps it could not have achieved, given 
the fundamental premisses of the movement itself), it would have 
had to counterpose to the "empirical" activity of the Moderates 
(which was empirical only in a manner of speaking, since it corre- 
sponded perfectly to the objective) an organic programme of 
government which would reflect the essential demands of the 
popular masses, and in the first place of the peasantry. To the 
"spontaneous" attraction of the Moderates it would have had to 
counterpose a resistance and a counter-offensive "organised" 
according to a plan. 

As a typical example of spontaneous attraction by the Moderates, 
one might recall the formation and development of the "liberal- 
catholic" movement 13 which scared the Papacy so much — partially 
succeeding in paralysing its movements; demoralising it; in an 
initial period pushing it too far to the left (with the liberalising 
measures of Pius IX) ; in a subsequent period driving it into a more 
right-wing position than it need have adopted; and in the last 
analysis being the cause of its isolation in the peninsula and in 
Europe. The Papacy has since demonstrated that it has learnt its 
lesson, and has shown itself capable in more recent times of 

13 Liberal catholic movements developed in several European countries — 
France, Belgium, Italy, England, etc in the early and mid-nineteenth century. 
In Italy they included notably the neo-Guelphs (see note 9 on p. 58). Their 
common ideological basis was an acceptance of the main body of bourgeois liberal 
thought at the time. In Italy, after the blow of the Pope's withdrawal to the 
Lateran in 1870, liberal Catholicism more or less disappeared, but as Gramsci 
points out it can be seen as a precursor of the "Modernist" movement (see following 



manoeuvring brilliantly. Modernism first, and later Popularism, 1 * 
are movements resembling the liberal-catholic movement of the 
Risorgimento, due in great part to the power of spontaneous 
attraction exercised on the one hand by the modern historicism of 
the secular intellectuals of the upper classes, and on the other by the 
practical movement of the philosophy of praxis. 15 The Papacy 
combated Modernism as a tendency aimed at reforming the Church 
and the Catholic religion, but it encouraged Popularism — i.e. the 
socio-economic basis of Modernism — and today with Pius XI is 
making it the pivot of its world policies. 

But the Action Party lacked even a concrete programme of 
government. In essence it was always, more than anything else, an 
agitational and propagandist body in the service of the Moderates. 
The disagreements and internal conflicts of the Action Party, and 
the tremendous hatred which Mazzini aroused among the more 
valiant men of action (Garibaldi, Felice Orsini, 18 etc.) against 
himself personally and against his activities, were caused by the 
lack of any firm political leadership. These internal polemics were 
for the most part as abstract as Mazzini's preaching, but it is 
possible to draw useful historical indications from them (it is 
enough to quote the example of Pisacane's 17 writings, despite the 

14 Modernism was an intellectual movement which developed among catholics 
in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Its proclaimed aims were to 
bring the Church into harmony with the culture and society of the contemporary 
world — especially with new developments in scientific and sociological thinking. 
It was condemned by the Papal decree Lamenlabili and the Encyclical Pascendi in 
1907. However, via the work notably of Romolo Murri, it was an important 
ideological ancestor of contemporary Christian Democracy. 

The Popular Party was founded by Luigi Sturzo and others in January 1919. 
Based on sociaUchristian ideas current throughout Europe at the time, it was 
encouraged initially by the Papacy (as a political movement directed outwards, 
and not towards reform of the Church itself like Modernism). It grew swiftly — 
especially in the agricultural areas of North and Central Italy, where it set up 
"white" unions whose strength among the small peasants often outstripped that of 
their "red" rivals. After vacillating in its attitude towards fascism between 1921-25 
(Sturzo was not prepared to accept Papal pressure for an accommodation), it was 
suppressed in 1925 26 like the other opposition parties. After the fall of fascism, 
it re-emerged as the Christian Democrat Party. 

16 i.e. Modernism and Popularism were a result of- — and aimed to counteract — 
the influence of Croce and Gentile on the one hand, and of socialism on the other. 

M Felice Orsini (1819-58). After participating in the early stages of the 
Risorgimento as a follower of Mazzini, he broke with the latter in the mid-sos 
and made an attempt in 1858 to assassinate Napoleon III, for which he was 

*' Carlo Pisacane (1818-57) was a prominent Risorgimento man of action and 
military theorist, notable for his advocacy of the creation of peasant armies and a 
"war of national insurrection". Gramsci commended his perception of the need 
for a "Jacobin" element in the Risorgimento, but said that he should be compared 
to the Russian Narodniks. Bom in Naples, of aristocratic origins, he became a 


fact that he committed irreparable political and military errors, 
such as opposing Garibaldi's military dictatorship in the Roman 
Republic). The Action Party was steeped in the traditional, rhetoric 
of Italian literature. It confused the cultural unity which existed in 
the peninsula — confined, however, to a very thin stratum of the 
population, and polluted by the Vatican's cosmopolitanism — with 
the political and territorial unity of the great popular masses, who 
were foreign to that cultural tradition and who, even supposing 
that they knew of its existence, couldn't care less about it. A 
comparison may be made between the Jacobins and the Action 
Party. The Jacobins strove with determination to ensure a bond 
between town and country, and they succeeded triumphantly. 
Their defeat as a specific party was due to the fact that at a certain 
point they came up against the demands of the Paris workers; but 
in reality they were perpetuated in another form by Napoleon, and 
today, very wretchedly, by the radical-socialists of Herriot and 

In French political literature, the necessity of binding the town 
(Paris) to the countryside had always been vividly felt and expressed. 
It is enough to recall the series of novels by Eugene Sue, 18 very 
widely disseminated in Italy too (Fogazzaro in his novel Piccolo 
Mondo Antico shows Franco Maironi receiving clandestinely from 
Switzerland the successive episodes of the Mysteres du Peuple; these 
were in fact burnt at the hands of the public executioner in certain 
European cities — Vienna, for example). Sue's novels stress with 
particular insistence the necessity of having a concern for the 
peasantry, and of binding it to Paris. And Sue was the popular 
novelist of the Jacobin political tradition, and a "primary source" 

military engineer. In 1847 he fled from Naples and joined the Foreign Legion. In 
1848 he returned to Italy when fighting broke out in Milan, and arrived in Rome 
in March 1849 after the proclamation of the republic (see note go on p. 102). He 
became the moving spirit of the city's War Council, and as commander-in-chief 
organised the city's defences before Mazzini's appointment of General Rosselli 
(see note 111 on p. 112). After the fall of the republic, he withdrew to Genoa, and 
published his Guerra combattuta in Italia negli anni 1848-49, in which he expressed 
his disagreements with Garibaldi. He opposed Garibaldi's conception of revo- 
lutionary dictatorship as too purely military, and undemocratic since it did not 
involve the masses. Pisacane committedsuicide in 1857 after thefailure of a landing 
at Sapri south of Naples. 

18 Eugene Sue ( 1 804-57) was the author of a series of extremely popular novels 
of Paris life published by instalments in the 1840s and 1850s, e.g. Les Mysteres de 
Paris (1842-43), Le Juif Errant (1844 45), Les Sept Peches Capitaux (1847 49), Les 
Mysteres du Peuple (1849 57). Set in a popular milieu, they contained a mish-mash 
of vaguely humanitarian and democratic ideas. Les Mysteres di Paris and its idealistic 
interpreters were savagely lampooned by Marx in The Holy Family. 



for Herriot and Daladier 19 from many points of view (Napoleonic 
legend, anti-clericalism and anti-Jesuitism, petty bourgeois re- 
formism, penal theories, etc.). 

It is true that the Action Party was always implicitly anti-French 
by virtue of its Mazzinian ideology (compare Omodeo's essay on 
French Supremacy and Italian Initiative, in Critica, 1929, pp. 223 ff.), 
but it found in the history of the peninsula a tradition to which it 
could go back and attach itself. The history of the mediaeval 
Communes 20 is rich in relevant experiences: the nascent bourge- 
oisie seeks allies among the peasants against the Empire and against 
the local feudalism. (It is true that the question is complicated by 
the struggle between bourgeoisie and nobles competing for cheap 
labour. The bourgeoisie needs an abundant supply of labour, which 
can only be provided by the rural masses — but the nobles want the 
peasants tied to the soil: flight of the peasants into the cities where 
the nobles cannot capture them. In any case, even though the 
situation is different, there is apparent in the development of 
Communal civilisation the function of the city as a directive 
element, of the city which deepens the internal conflicts of the 
countryside and uses them as a politico-military instrument to 
strike down feudalism.) But the most classic master of the art of 
politics for the Italian ruling classes, Machiavelli, had also posed 
the problem — naturally in the terms and with the preoccupations 
of his time. In his politico-military writings, the need to subordinate 
the popular masses organically to the ruling strata, so as to create 
a national militia capable of eliminating the companies of fortune, 
was quite well understood. 21 Carlo Pisacane should perhaps be 
connected with this theme in Machiavelli; for him, the problem of 
satisfying popular demands (after having aroused them by means 
of propaganda) is seen mainly from the military point of view. 
With regard to Pisacane, certain contradictions in his conception 
need to be analysed. Pisacane, a Neapolitan nobleman, had suc- 
ceeded in acquiring a series of politico-military concepts put into 
circulation by the military experiences of the French Revolution 
and of Napoleon, and transplanted to Naples during the reigns of 

18 French "Radicals" prominent in the twenties and thirties — both were prime 

20 See note 4 on p. 53. 

21 For Machiavelli's project for a citizen's militia, see introduction to "The 
Modern Prince". The companies of fortune were the mercenary armies led by 
condottieri which roved Italy in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries and in 
numerous cases took power in the cities which employed them, and founded 


6 5 

Joseph Bonaparte and of Joachim Murat 22 — but especially through 
the direct experience of the Neapolitan officers who had fought 
with Napoleon.* Pisacane understood that without a democratic 
policy it is impossible to have national armies with compulsory 
conscription, but his aversion for Garibaldi's strategy and his 
mistrust of Garibaldi are inexplicable. He had the same scornful 
attitude towards Garibaldi that the General Staffs of the ancien 
regime had towards Napoleon. 

The other figure who needs to be studied for these problems of 
the Risorgimento is Giuseppe Ferrari, 23 but not so much for his 
so-called major works — real hotch-potches of muddle and confu- 
sion — as for his occasional pamphlets and letters. Ferrari, however, 
was to a great extent outside the concrete reality of Italy; he had 
become too gallicised. Often his judgements appear more acute than 
they really are, since he applied to Italy French schemas, which 
represented conditions considerably more advanced than those to 
be found in Italy. One may say that Ferrari, in relation to Italy, 
found himself in the position of a "descendant", and that his 
wisdom was in a certain sense "hindsight". The politician, however, 
must be an effective man of action, working on the present. Ferrari 
did not see that an intermediary link was missing between the 
Italian and French situations, and that it was precisely this link 
which had to be welded fast for it to be possible to pass on to the next. 
Ferrari was incapable of "translating" what was French into some- 
thing Italian, and hence his very "acuteness" became an element 
of confusion, stimulated new sects and little schools, but did not 
impinge on the real movement. 

If one goes deeper into the question, it appears that from many 
aspects the difference between many members of the Action Party 
and the Moderates was more one of "temperament" than of an 
organically political character. The term "Jacobin" has ended up 
by taking on two meanings: there is the literal meaning, charac- 

22 Joseph Bonaparte, Napoleon's brother, was King of the Two Sicilies from 
1806-8; Murat was King from 1808-15. 

* In his obituary of Cadorna in Nuova Antologia, 1 March ig2g, M. Missiroli 
insists on the importance that this Neapolitan experience and military tradition 
had, through Pianell f or example, in the reorganisation of the Italian army alter 

23 Giuseppe Ferrari (1811-76), philosopher and historian. Living in exile in 
France from 1838-59, he wrote various works putting forward a democratic- 
republican federalist point of view. He returned to I taly in 1 859, and was active 
in parliamentary politics until his death, as a more or less isolated radical figure 
who stood outside the process of transformism which characterised Italian parlia- 
mentary life in those years. See pp. 75-6 below. 



terised historically, of a particular party in the French Revolution, 
which conceived of the development of French life in a particular 
way, with a particular programme, on the basis of particular social 
forces; and there are also the particular methods of party and 
government activity which they displayed, characterised by extreme 
energy, decisiveness and resolution, dependent on a fanatical belief 
in the virtue of that programme and those methods. In political 
language the two aspects of Jacobinism were split, and the term 
"Jacobin" came to be used for a politician who was energetic, 
resolute and fanatical, because fanatically convinced of the thau- 
maturgical virtues of his ideas, whatever they might be. This 
definition stressed the destructive elements derived from hatred of 
rivals and enemies, more than the constructive one derived from 
having made the demands of the popular masses one's own; the 
sectarian element of the clique, of the small group, of unrestrained 
individualism, more than the national political element. Thus, 
when one reads that Crispi 24 was a Jacobin, it is in this derogatory 
sense that the assertion should be understood. In his programme, 
Crispi was a Moderate pure and simple. His most noble Jacobin 
"obsession" was the politico-territorial unity of the country. This 
principle was always the compass by which he took his direction, 
not only in the period of the Risorgimento, in the strict sense, but in 
the succeeding period as well, when he was a member of the 
government. A man of strong passions, he hated the Moderates as 
individuals: he saw in them the latecomers, the heroes of the 
eleventh hour; people who would have made peace with the old 
regimes if these had become constitutional ; people like the Tuscan 
Moderates, who clung to the Grand Duke's coat-tails, afraid that 
he might run away. He had little trust in a unity achieved by 
non-unitarians. Hence he tied himself to the monarchy, which he 
realised would be resolutely unitarian for dynastic reasons, and 
embraced the principle of Piedmontese hegemony with an energy 
and ardour which the very Piedmontese politicians themselves 

84 Francesco Crispi (1818-igoi). At first a Sicilian autonomist, he became 
linked with Mazzini and converted to the aim of a unitary post-Rjsorgimento 
Italian state. In 1859 he organised an insurrection in Sicily, and played an 
important part in Garibaldi's expedition of i860. After the achievement of 
national unity, he became a parliamentary deputy of the Left. In 1865 he broke 
with Mazzini and rallied to the monarchy. He was Minister of the Interior and 
Prime Minister on various occasions between 1876 and i8g6, and was the most 
consistent advocate of Italian colonial expansion, notably into Ethiopia. In 
1893-94 ne repressed the Sicilian Fasci (see following note) with extreme savagery. 
In many ways he can be seen as a precursor of the nationalist and fascist move- 
ments of the twentieth century. 


could not match. Cavour had warned that the South should not be 
dealt with by placing it under martial law: Crispi on the contrary 
at once established martial law and set up military courts in Sicily 
after the Fasci movement, 25 and accused the leaders of the Fasci of 
plotting with England for the secession of Sicily (pseudo-treaty of 
Bisacquino). 26 He allied himself closely with the Sicilian lati- 
fundists, since their fear of the demands of the peasantry made 
them the stratum most dedicated to unity, at the same time as 
overall policy was tending to reinforce Northern industrialism by 
means of the tariff war against France and customs protectionism. 
He did not hesitate to plunge the South and the Islands into a 
terrifying commercial crisis, so long as he was able to reinforce the 
industry which could give the country a real independence, and 
which would expand the cadres of the dominant social group: this 
is the policy of manufacturing the manufacturer. The government 
of the Right from 1861 to 1876 had merely, and timidly, created the 
general external conditions for economic development — rationali- 
sation of the government apparatus, roads, railways, telegraph — 
and had restored to health the country's finances, over-burdened 
by the wars of the Risorgimento. The Left had attempted to remedy 
the hatred aroused among the people by the Right's unilateral 
fiscalism, but it had only succeeded in acting as a safety-valve: it 
had continued the policies of the Right with a left-wing personnel 
and phraseology. Crispi, on the other hand, gave the new Italian 
society a real heave forward: he was the true man of the new 
bourgeoisie. His figure, however, is characterised by a disproportion 
between deeds and words, between the repressions and their objects, 
between the instrument and the blow delivered; he handled a rusty 
culverin as if it were a piece of modern artillerv. Crispi's colonial 
policy too is connected with his obsession with unity, and in it he 
proved able to understand the political innocence of the Mezzo- 
giorno. The southern peasant wanted land, and Crispi, who did not 
want to (or could not) give it to him in Italy itself, who had no wish 
to go in for "economic Jacobinism", conjured up the mirage of 

88 Fasci dei lavoratori ("workers' leagues"), led by socialists, spread throughout 
Sicily in 1 892-93. They were basically peasant organisations, and their main aim 
was the break-up of the big estates and distribution of the land. They had con- 
siderable success in securing improved contracts between peasants and land- 
owners in 1893. In 1893 94, under the impact of the economic crisis of that year, 
the peasantry rose throughout the island, and was repressed with great brutality 
by Crispi. 

2> It was rumoured that contacts had taken place at Bisacquino, near Palermo, 
between representatives of the Fasci and the English, with a view to detaching 
Sicily from Italy and establishing it as an independent state. 



colonial lands to be exploited. Crispi's imperialism was passionate, 
oratorical, without any economic or financial basis. Capitalist 
Europe, rich in resources and arrived at the point at which the rate 
of profit was beginning to reveal its tendency to fall, 27 had a need 
to widen the area of expansion of its income-bearing investments; 
thus, after 1890, the great colonial empires were created. But the 
still immature Italy not only had no capital to export, but had to have 
recourse to foreign capital for its own pressing needs. Hence there 
was lacking any real drive behind Italian imperialism, and it was 
substituted for by the strong popular passions of the peasants, 
blindly intent on possessing land. It was a question of an exigency 
of internal politics which had to be resolved, and was — by the side- 
tracking of its solution to infinity. Hence Crispi's policy was opposed 
by the (northern) capitalists themselves, who would more willingly 
have seen employed in Italy the huge sums spent in Africa; but in the 
South Crispi was popular for having created the "myth" of easy land. 

Crispi left a profound stamp upon an enormous number of Sicilian 
intellectuals (these especially, though he influenced all Italian 
intellectuals, creating the first cells of a national socialism which was 
later to develop vertiginously). 28 He created that unitarian fanati- 
cism which brought about a permanent atmosphere of suspicion 
against anything which might have the air of separatism. This, 
however (understandably), did not prevent the Sicilian latifundists 
from meeting in Palermo in 1920, and pronouncing a literal ulti- 
matum against the government "of Rome", threatening secession; 
just as it did not prevent several of these latifundists from continuing 
to keep Spanish nationality, nor from calling on the Madrid 
government's diplomatic intervention (case of the Duke of Bivona 
in 1919) to safeguard their interests, threatened by the agitation of 
the peasants back from the war. The attitude of the various social 
groups in the Mezzogiorno from 19 19 to 1926 serves to reveal and 
to emphasise certain weaknesses of the obsessively unitarian approach 
of Crispi, and to emphasise certain corrections contributed to it by 
Giolitti. These were very few in reality, since Giolitti essentially 
kept to the furrow traced by Crispi. For the temperamental 
Jacobinism of Crispi, Giolitti substituted bureaucratic diligence 
and continuity; he kept up the "mirage of land" in colonial policy, 

*' See Capital, Volume III, Section 3, and note 3 on p. 280 below. 

88 i.e. the nationalist party, which as Gramsci showed in Alcuni temi was 
effectively founded by ex-socialists and syndicalists (e.g. Corradini, with his 
concept of the "proletarian nations"), and fascism, which claimed to be a national 



but he also propped up that policy with a "defensive" military 
outlook, and with the premise that it was necessary to create the 
conditions of freedom of expansion for the future. The episode of 
the Sicilian latifundists' ultimatum in 1920 is not isolated, and 
another interpretation of it could be suggested — from the precedent 
of the Lombard upper classes, who on certain occasions threatened 
to "go it alone" and to reconstitute the ancient Duchy of Milan 
(a temporary policy of blackmail towards the government) — if the 
authentic interpretation was not to be found in the campaigns run 
by the Mattino from 19 19 until the dismissal of the Scarfoglio 
brothers. 29 For it would be too ingenuous to think that these 
campaigns were entirely suspended in mid-air, in other words not 
related in some way to currents of public opinion and to states of 
mind which had remained subterranean, latent, potential as a 
result of the atmosphere of intimidation created by obsessive 
unitarianism. The Mattino on two occasions defended the following 
thesis: that the Mezzogiorno joined the Italian State on a con- 
tractual basis, the Albertine Statute, 30 but that (implicitly) it 
continues to preserve a real, concrete personality of its own, and 
has the right to cast off the bonds of the unitary State if the con- 
tractual basis is in any way prejudiced, i.e. if the 1848 constitution 
is modified. This thesis was developed in 191 9-20 in the face of a 
constitutional modification in one direction, and was repeated in 
1924-25 against a change in the other direction. 31 One must keep 
in mind the importance of the Mattino's role in the Mezzogiorno 
(it was also the newspaper with the widest circulation). The 
Mattino was always pro-Crispi and expansionist, setting the tone for 
the South's ideology — created by the hunger for land and by the 
sufferings of emigration, and inclining towards every vague form 
of settler colonialism. The following points should also be recalled 
about the Mattino: 1. its extremely violent campaign against the 
North on the occasion of the attempt by the Lombard textile 
magnates to gain control of certain Southern cotton industries; an 
attempt which reached the point at which the plant was about to be 

'* The brothers Carlo, Paolo and Antonio Scarfoglio inherited II Mattino of 
Naples from their father, but were ousted by the Bank of Naples in 1928. 

30 Carlo Alberto, King of Sardinia (Piedmont), granted a constitution to 
Piedmont on 4 March 1 848. This "Albertine Statute" provided for a parliament, 
with ministers responsible to it rather than to the King; it was subsequently 
extended to the other regions which were annexed to form the Kingdom of Italy. 

31 i.e. in 1 9 1 9-20 in view of the threat of a socialist revolution, and in 1 924 25 
in view of the consolidation of fascist power and its progressive replacement of the 
institutions of bourgeois democracy by its own dictatorial regime. 



transported to Lombardy, disguised as scrap metal in order to 
evade the legislation on industrial zones; an attempt which was 
precisely foiled by the newspaper, which went so far as to publish 
a eulogy of the Bourbons and their economic policies (this happened 
in 1923); 2. the "sorrowful", "nostalgic" commemoration of Maria 
Sophia 32 published in 1925, which provoked a great fuss and 

To be sure, in order to evaluate this attitude of the Mattino, 
certain qualifications have to be taken into account: the adventurous 
character and the venality of the Scarfogli,* and their political and 
ideological dilettantism. But it is necessary to insist on the fact that 
the Mattino was the paper with the largest circulation in the 
Mezzogiorno, and that the Scarfogli were born journalists, in other 
words possessed that rapid and "sympathetic" intuition of the 
deepest currents of popular feeling which makes possible the 
dissemination of the yellow press. 

Another element in evaluating the real significance of the 
obsessedly unitary policies of Crispi is the complex of feelings 
created in the North with regard to the Mezzogiorno. The poverty 
of the Mezzogiorno was historically "inexplicable" for the popular 
masses in the North; they did not understand that unity had not 
taken place on a basis of equality, but as hegemony of the North 

38 Maria Sophia (1841-1925) was the last Bourbon queen of the Two Sicilies. 
After the fall of Gaeta in 1 86 1 , she and her husband Francesco II fled, first to 
Rome and then after 1870 to exile in Paris and later Munich. She never ceased 
to plan the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy. 

* It should be recalled that Maria Sophia continually sought to intervene in 
the internal affairs of Italy, through a thirst for vengeance if not with any hope of 
restoring the kingdom of Naples even spending money for that purpose, as seems 
to be beyond doubt. Unitd, in 1914 or 1915, published a sharp attack on Errico 
Malatesta in which it was asserted that the events of June 1914" might have been 
sponsored and financed by the Austrian General Staff through the medium of 
2ita di Borbone, 84 given the relations of "friendship" seemingly never interrupted 
between Malatesta and Maria Sophia; in his work Uomini e cose delta vecckia Italia 
[Men and things of old Italy], B. Croce refers again to these relations in connection 
with an attempt to rescue an anarchist who had committed a terrorist attack an 
attempt which was followed by diplomatic representations to the French govern- 
ment by that of Italy to stop these activities of Maria Sophia's. The anecdotes 
about Maria Sophia recounted by Signora B., who used to visit the ex-queen in 
191 9 to paint her portrait, should also be recalled. When all is said and done, 
Malatesta never replied to these accusations, as he ought to have done, unless 
(and this is highly doubtful) it is true that he replied in a letter to a clandestine 
broadsheet, printed in France by S. Schicchi and called It Picconiere. 

** i.e. the "Red Week" of Ancona, when troops fired on an anti-war demon- 
stration whose culmination was a rally addressed by Malatesta, killing three 
people and wounding fifteen more. This led to a general strike and demonstrations 
throughout the country. 

5,4 Zita di Borbone was the last Austro-Hungarian Empress. 



over the Mezzogiorno in a territorial version of the town-country 
relationship — in other words, that the North concretely was an 
"octopus" which enriched itself at the expense of the South, and 
that its economic-industrial increment was in direct proportion to 
the impoverishment of the economy and the agriculture of the 
South. The ordinary man from Northern Italy thought rather that, 
if the Mezzogiorno made no progress after having been liberated 
from the fetters which the Bourbon regime placed in the way of a 
modern development, this meant that the causes of the poverty 
were not external, to be sought in objective economic and political 
conditions, but internal, innate in the population of the South — 
and this all the more since there was a deeply-rooted belief in the 
great natural wealth of the terrain. There only remained one 
explanation — the organic incapacity of the inhabitants, their 
barbarity, their biological inferiority. These already widespread 
opinions (Neapolitan "vagabondry" 35 is a legend which goes 
back a long way) were consolidated and actually theorised by the 
sociologists of positivism (Niceforo, Sergi, Ferri, Orano, etc.), 84 
acquiring the strength of "scientific truth" in a period of superstition 
about science. Thus a polemic arose between North and South on 
the subject of race, and about the superiority or inferiority of North 
and South (compare N. Colajanni's books defending the Mezzo- 
giorno in this respect, 87 and the whole series of the Rivista Popolare). 
Meanwhile, in the North there persisted the belief that the Mezzo- 
giorno was a "ball and chain" for Italy, the conviction that the 
modern industrial civilisation of Northern Italy would have made 
greater progress without this "ball and chain", etc. The early years 
of this century then saw the beginnings of a strong Southern reaction 
on this very subject. In the Sardinian Congress of 191 1, held under 
the presidency of General Rugiu, a calculation was made of how 

86 " Lazzaronisnw" , from Iazzaroni or lazzari, from the Spanish lazaro — poor 
(which in turns derives from the Biblical figure of Lazarus the beggar). From the 
sixteenth century onwards this word was applied by the Spanish rulers to the 
urban "mob" of Naples (and thence by extension of other cities). In Naples, this 
sub-proletariat was strongly monarchist, and in 1 799 it rose in the Sanfedista rising 
against the bourgeois Jacobin regime of the Parthenopean Republic. It continued 
to be the bastion of the Bourbons to the end. The term itself was pejorative, 
stressing the wretched condition of that sub proletariat and its supposed laziness 
and dishonesty, and it is these connotations to which Gramsci is referring here. 

8 » Alfredo Niceforo, born 1876, was a sociologist and criminologist who wrote 
numerous studies on poverty, crime, etc., notably in Naples where he held a 
university post. In Italiani del Nord e Itaiiani del Sud he argued the biological 
inferiority of Southern Italians. Similar arguments were put forward by Giuseppe 
Sergi, Enrico Ferri (see note 47 on p. 246) and Paolo Orano. 

37 Cli awenimenti di Sicilia e le loro accuse, and L'ltalia nel 18,98: iumulti 1 reaziom. 



many hundreds of millions had been extorted from Sardinia in the 
first fifty years of the unitary State, to the advantage of the mainland. 
Then came Salvemini's campaigns 38 — brought to their culmination 
in the foundation of Unitd, but already being waged in Voce (see the 
special number of Voce on the Southern Question, later published as a 
pamphlet). In Sardinia an autonomist movement started, under 
the leadership of Umberto Cau, which also had a daily newspaper: 
II Paese. In those early years of the century a certain "intellectual 
bloc" — a "pan-Italian" one — was created; it was led by B. Croce 
and Giustino Fortunato, and sought to pose the Southern Question 
as a national problem capable of renovating political and parlia- 
mentary life. 39 Not simply the influence of Croce and Fortunato, 
but their contributions, were to be seen in every review of the 
younger generation which had liberal democratic tendencies and 
proposed in general to rejuvenate and deprovincialise national life 
and culture in all fields — in art, in literature, in politics. It was the 
case with Voce and Unitd, but also with Patria from Bologna, Azione 
Liberate from Milan, with the Young Liberal movement led by 
Giovanni Borelli, etc. 40 The influence of this bloc increased further 
when it came to determine the political line of Albertini's Corriere 
della Sera ; after the war, thanks to the new situation, it appeared in 
La Stampa too (through Cosmo, Salvatorelli, and also through 
Ambrosini) and in Giolittism with the inclusion of Croce in the 
last Giolitti government.* The movement developed to its maxi- 

as For Salvemini and the influence of his "southernism" on the young Gramsci, 
see Introduction, pp. xx, xxvi vii. 

" Gramsci develops this analysis of the role played by Croce and Fortunato at 
greater length in Alcuni tend, in MS. p. 173, and below (pp. 93-5) in "The 
city-countryside relationship . . .". Fortunato, a liberal conservative, was one of 
the most important of the "southemist" writers, and the author notably of II 
Mezzo giorno e lo State italiano, 1911. 

40 Giovanni Borelli (1869-1932) was the founder of the Young Liberal move- 
ment in 1900. Its aim was the re-creation of a "Latin" Mediterranean, and it was 
in fact monarchist, irredentist and colonialist. 

* A tendentious interpretation of this certainly very complex and many sided 
movement is also offered today by G. Prezzolini, despite the fact that he himself 
was a typical incarnation of it. However, as an authentic document, there is still 
the first edition of La Coltura Italiana (t923) by that same Prezzolini — especially in 
view of its omissions. 41 

41 Giuseppe Prezzolini (b. 1882) was at first a mystical nationalist close to 
Enrico Corradini (see note 28 on p. 68), subsequently a Crocean with syndicalist 
sympathies. From 1908-14 he edited the influential La Voce. When the fascists 
took power he soon adapted himself to the new situation/The first edition of his 
La Coltura Italiana (published in 1923 but written before the fascists came to 
power) contained many passages including a relatively complimentary des- 
cription of the 1919-20 Or dine Nvovo which Prezzolini omitted in later editions, 
in order to avoid giving offence to the regime. 



mum, which was also its point of dissolution. This point was to be 
identified in the particular stance of Piero Gobetti and in his 
cultural initiatives. 42 The polemic carried on by Giovanni Ansaldo 
(and collaborators of his such as "Calcante" [Calchas], otherwise 
Francesco Ciccotti) against Guido Dorso is the most expressive 
document of this destination and outcome 43 ; the comic aspects 

* ! Piero Gobetti (1901 26) founded the fortnightly Energie Nuove in 1918, at 
the age of 17. The son of a Turin grocer, he was at first strongly influenced by 
Salvemini, but went far beyond the latter's "concretism", i.e. pragmatic liberal- 
ism, in his attitude towards the October Revolution, the working-class and 
Marxism. Although he was explicitly non socialist, he saluted the October Revo- 
lution and the work of Lenin and Trotsky as a gigantic liberation of the Russian 
people. His positions were extremely confused, and yet brought him near to the 
revolutionary Left in the years immediately after the war. He wrote, for instance 
(in 1 9 1 g) : "The Marxist experiment in Russia has certainly failed; the old 
objections of liberal economics are more powerful than ever against all the pro- 
ponents of statification — Bolshevism is just a further demonstration of this. . . . 
But . . . the Russian Revolution is not limited to the socialist experiment. The 
bases of a new State are being laid there. Lenin and Trotsky are not only Bolshe- 
viks, they are men of action who have awoken a people and are creating a new 
soul for it. . . . The work of Lenin and Trotsky ... is basically the negation of 
socialism and an assertion and exaltation of liberalism . . .". He seems to have 
been particularly influenced by Trotsky's Terrorism and Communism: a reply to 
Kautsky. His confused positions made him the target of polemics in the pages 
of Or dine Nuovo, from both Gramsci and Togliatti, who attacked his idealism. But 
he was genuinely concerned, unlike Salvemini, with the theoretical problems 
raised by the rising tide of working-class revolution in that period, and organised 
debates in the pages of Energie Nuove on socialism, with contributions from, e.g., 
Croce, Einaudi, Mondolfo, Loria. During 1920 he canie closer to the Ordine 
Nuovo group, above all under the influence of the factory council movement, and 
also because he shared their view that the alliance of workers and peasants was 
the key to what he saw as the "democratic" revolution in Italy. In January 1921, 
when Ordine Nuovo became a daily, he w as asked to become its theatre critic, and 
he also contributed numerous book reviews. In February 1922 he founded a new 
weekly La Rivoluzione Liberate, whose contributors included Amendola, Pareto, 
Mosca, Missiroli, Fortunato, Einaudi, Dorso, Lelio Basso, Carlo Levi, Malaparte, 
Salvatorelli to name only a few. He made this weekly above all into an organ 
of bitter opposition to fascism; Gobetti was explicit in his opposition to any 
illusion that fascism could be somehow contained within the system, or that it 
would be tamed by coming to terms with it. In his opposition to fascism, Gobetti 
came very close to Marxism (see, for instance, his L'ora di Marx), and his entire 
position was based on the idea that only the working class could defeat fascism. 
His activity, including a publishing house founded in 1923 and a new fortnightly 
Baretti in addition to La Rivoluzione Liberate, continued despite constant police 
harassment until the end of 1925, when he was forbidden to edit or publish 
anything further. He decided to go into exile, and died almost immediately of 
bronchitis and heart failure. Gramsci analysed the significance of Gobetti in his 
Alcuni temi. 

48 Guido Dorso (see Gramsci's discussion of him in Alcuni temi) was the author 
of La Rivoluzione Meridionale, in which he called for the overthrow of the centralised 
Italian state, and also of the traditional ruling class of the South. Ansaldo and 
Ciccotti were contributors at this time to Gobetti's Rivoluzione Liberate (although 
Ansaldo later in fact became a fascist, at the time of the Abyssinian campaign), 
who defended the unity of Italy at any price — raising the bogy of a return of the 
Bourbons if the unitary link was broken. 



which now seem obvious in the gladiatorial and intimidatory 
attitudes of fanatical unitarianism even help to make it that.* 

From this series of observations and analyses of certain elements 
of Italian history after unity, certain criteria may be drawn for 
evaluating the position of confrontation between the Moderates 
and the Action Party, and for investigating the respective political 
"wisdom" of these two parties and of the various tendencies which 
contested the political and ideological leadership of the latter of 
them. It is obvious that, in order to counterpose itself effectively to 
the Moderates, the Action Party ought to have allied itself with the 
rural masses, especially those in the South, and ought to have been 
"Jacobin" not only in external "form", in temperament, but most 
particularly in socio-economic content. The binding together of the 
various rural classes, which was accomplished in a reactionary bloc 
by means of the various legitimist-clerical intellectual strata, could 
be dissolved, so as to arrive at a new liberal-national formation, only 
if support was won from two directions: from the peasant masses, 
by accepting their elementary demands and making these an 
integral part of the new programme of government; and from the 
intellectuals of the middle and lower strata, by concentrating them 
and stressing the themes most capable of interesting them (and the 
prospect of a new apparatus of government being formed, with the 
possibilities of employment which it offered, would already have 
been a formidable element of attraction for them — if that prospect 
had appeared concrete, because based on the aspirations of the 

The relation between these two actions was dialectical and 
reciprocal: the experience of many countries, first and foremost that 
of France in the period of the great Revolution, has shown that, if 
the peasants move through "spontaneous" impulses, the intellectuals 
start to waver; and, reciprocally, if a group of intellectuals situates 
itself on a new basis of concrete pro-peasant policies, it ends up by 
drawing with it ever more important elements of the masses. 

* That Ansaldo, in 1925-26, should have thought he could make people believe 
in a return of the Bourbons to Naples, would seem inconceivable without a 
knowledge of all the antecedents of the question and of the subterranean courses 
taken by the polemics, with their hidden meanings and allusions enigmatic to the 
non-initiated. However, it is remarkable that even among certain popular elements, 
who had read Oriani," the fear existed at the time that a Bourbon restoration was 
possible in Naples, and hence a more extensive dissolution of the unitary State 

44 Alfredo Oriani (1852 1909) was a novelist and polemicist whose themes 
were those of national destiny — as such he was a forerunner of fascism. Gramsci 
wrote a number of critical notes on him (see LVN. pp. 16-19). 



However, one may say that, given the dispersal and the isolation 
of the rural population and hence the difficulty of welding it into 
solid organisations, it is best to start the movement from the 
intellectual groups ; however, in general, it is the dialectical relation 
between the two actions which has to be kept in mind. It may also 
be said that peasant parties in the strict sense of the word are almost 
impossible to create. The peasant party generally is achieved only 
as a strong current of opinion, and not in schematic forms of 
bureaucratic organisation. However, the existence even of only a 
skeleton organisation is of immense usefulness, both as a selective 
mechanism, and for controlling the intellectual groups and pre- 
venting caste interests from transporting them imperceptibly onto 
different ground. 

These criteria must be kept in mind when studying the personality 
of Giuseppe Ferrari, who was the Action Party's unheeded 
"specialist" on agrarian questions. It is also necessary to study 
closely Ferrari's attitude towards the agricultural labourers 
[bracciantato], i.e. the landless peasants who live by day-labour. It is 
on these that he bases a notable part of his ideological positions, for 
which he is still sought out and read by certain schools of thought 
(works of Ferrari reprinted by Monanni, with prefatory material 
by Luigi Fabbri). It must be recognised that the problem of the 
agricultural labourers is an extremely difficult one, and even today 
very hard to solve. In general, the following criteria must be borne 
in mind: the agricultural labourers to this day are for the most part 
simply peasants without land — (hence were all the more so in the 
Risorgimento period) — and not the workers of an agricultural 
industry developed through concentration of capital and the 
division of labour. Moreover, in the period of the Risorgimento, 
tied labour [obbligato] was considerably more widespread than 
casual labour [avoentizio]. Their psychology is therefore, with all 
due exceptions, the same as that of the farmer and the small- 

The question was posed in acute form not so much in the Mezzo- 

* It is worth recalling the polemic between Senators Tanari and Bassini in the 
Resto del Carlino and in Perseveranza, which took place towards the end of 191 7 and 
in early 1918, concerning the application of the slogan: "the land to the peasants", 
launched around that time. Tanari was in favour, Bassini against. Bassini based 
himself on his experience as a big agricultural industrialist, as a proprietor of 
agricultural concerns in which the division of labour had progressed so far as to 
render the land indivisible, because of the disappearance of the self-employed 
peasant and the emergence of the modern worker. 

7 6 


giorno, where the artisanal character of agricultural labour was too 
obvious, as in the Po valley where it was more disguised. Even in 
recent times, however, the existence of an acute problem of the 
agricultural labourers in the Po valley was partly due to extra- 
economic causes: i. over-population, which did not find an outlet 
in emigration as in the South, and was artificially maintained 
through the policy of public works; 2. policy of the landowners, 
who did not wish to consolidate the working population into a 
single class of agricultural labourers and share-croppers [mezzadri] ; 
they alternated sharecropping with leaseholding, utilising this 
alternation in order to bring about a better selection of privileged 
sharecroppers who would be their allies : in every congress of land- 
owners from the Po region, there was always a discussion on whether 
sharecropping or direct tenancy was more advantageous, and it was 
clear that the choice was made for motives of a socio-political 
character. During the Risorgimento, the problem of the Po agri- 
cultural labourers appeared in the guise of a terrible phenomenon 
of pauperism. It is seen thus by the economist Tullio Martello in his 
History of the International, written in 1871-72, a work which must be 
borne in mind since it reflects the political passions and the social 
preoccupations of the preceding period. 

Ferrari's position is moreover weakened by his "federalism"; 
especially in his case — living in France as he did — this appeared all 
the more like a reflection of the national and State interests of 
France. Proudhon should be recalled, with his pamphlets against 
Italian unity — combated from the declared standpoint of French 
State interest and of democracy. In reality, the principal tendencies 
of French politics were bitterly opposed to Italian unity. To this 
day the monarchists (Bainville and Co.) "reproach" retrospectively 
the two Napoleons with having created the "nationalitarian" myth, 
and with having helped to secure its realisation in Germany and 
Italy, thus lowering the relative stature of France, which "ought" 
to be surrounded by a swarm of little states of the Switzerland type 
in order to be "secure". 

Now the Moderates after 1848 formed a national bloc under their 
own hegemony — influencing the two supreme leaders of the Action 
Party, Mazzini and Garibaldi, in different ways and to a different 
extent. They did this precisely under the slogan of "independence 
and unity", without taking any account of the concrete political 
content of such generic formulae. How successful the Moderates 
had been in their intention of diverting attention from the kernel 
to the husk is demonstrated, among so many other examples, by 



this expression of Guerrazzi's in a letter to a Sicilian student* : 
"Whatever we desire — whether it is despotism or republic or any- 
thing else — let us not seek division among ourselves; with this 
guiding principle, the world can collapse and we will still find the 
way again." In any case, Mazzini's entire activity was concretely 
devoted to a continuous and permanent preaching of unity. 

On the subject of Jacobinism and the Action Party, an element to 
be highlighted is the following: that the Jacobins won their function 
of "leading" [dirigente] party by a struggle to the death; they 
literally "imposed" themselves on the French bourgeoisie, leading 
it into a far more advanced position than the originally strongest 
bourgeois nuclei would have spontaneously wished to take up, and 
even far more advanced than that which the historical premisses 
should have permitted — hence the various forms of backlash and 
the function of Napoleon I. This feature, characteristic of Jacobin- 
ism (but before that, also of Cromwell and the "Roundheads") 
and hence of the entire French Revolution, which consists in 
(apparently) forcing the situation, in creating irreversible fails 
accomplis, and in a group of extremely energetic and determined 
men driving the bourgeois forward with kicks in the backside, may 
be schematized in the following way. The Third Estate was the 
least homogeneous; it had a very disparate intellectual elite, and a 
group which was very advanced economically but politically 
moderate. Events developed along highly interesting lines. The 
representatives of the Third Estate initially only posed those 
questions which interested the actual physical members of the 
social group, their immediate "corporate" interests (corporate in 
the traditional sense, of the immediate and narrowly selfish interests 
of a particular category) . The precursors of the Revolution were in 
fact moderate reformers, who shouted very loud but actually 
demanded very little. Gradually a new elite was selected out 
which did not concern itself solely with "corporate" reforms, but 
tended to conceive of the bourgeoisie as the hegemonic group of all 
the popular forces. This selection occurred through the action of 
two factors: the resistance of the old social forces, and the inter- 
national threat. The old forces did not wish to concede anything, 
and if they did concede anything they did it with the intention of 
gaining time and preparing a counter-offensive. The Third Estate 
would have fallen into these successive "pitfalls" without the 

* Published in the Arcbivio Storico Siciliano by Eugenio Di Carlo, correspondence 
between F. D. Guerrazzi and the notary Francesco Paolo Sardof ontana of Riella, 
reproduced in Marzocco on 24 November 1929. 

7 8 


energetic action of the Jacobins, who opposed every "intermediate" 
halt in the revolutionary process, and sent to the guillotine not only 
the elements of the old society which was hard a-dying, but also the 
revolutionaries of yesterday — today become reactionaries. The 
Jacobins, consequently, were the only party of the revolution in 
progress, in as much as they not only represented the immediate 
needs and aspirations of the actual physical individuals who consti- 
tuted the French bourgeoisie, but they also represented the revolu- 
tionary movement as a whole, as an integral historical development. 
For they represented future needs as well, and, once again, not only 
the needs of those particular physical individuals, but also of all the 
national groups which had to be assimilated to the existing funda- 
mental group. It is necessary to insist, against a tendentious and 
fundamentally anti-historical school of thought, that the Jacobins 
were realists of the Machiavelli stamp and not abstract dreamers. 
They were convinced of the absolute truth of their slogans about 
equality, fraternity and liberty, and, what is more important, the 
great popular masses whom the Jacobins stirred up and drew into 
the struggle were also convinced of their truth. The Jacobins' 
language, their ideology, their methods of action reflected perfectly 
the exigencies of the epoch, even if "today", in a different situation 
and after more than a century of cultural evolution, they may 
appear "abstract" and "frenetic". Naturally they reflected those 
exigencies according to the French cultural tradition. One proof of 
this is the analysis of Jacobin language which is to be found in The 
Holy Family.* 5 Another is Hegel's admission, 46 when he places as 
parallel and reciprocally translatable the juridico-political language 
of the Jacobins and the concepts of classical German philosophy — 
which is recognised today to have the maximum of concreteness 
and which was the source of modern historicism. The first necessity 
was to annihilate the enemy forces, or at least to reduce them to 
impotence in order to make a counter-revolution impossible. The 
second was to enlarge the cadres of the bourgeoisie as such, and to 
place the latter at the head of all the national forces; this meant 
identifying the interests and the requirements common to all the 
national forces, in order to set these forces in motion and lead them 
into the struggle, obtaining two results: (a) that of opposing a wider 
target to the blows of the enemy, i.e. of creating a politico-military 

15 The Holy Family, Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1956, pp. 160-67, ' n 
Chapter VI, Section 3(c). 

" e.g. in Section III, part 3 of his Foreword to the Phenomenology of the Spirit, 
and in his Lectures on the History of Philosophy. See MS. pp. 63-71. 



relation favourable to the revolution; (£) that of depriving the 
enemy of every zone of passivity in which it would be possible to 
enrol Vendee-type armies. 47 Without the agrarian policy of the 
Jacobins, Paris would have had the Vendee at its very doors. The 
resistance of the Vendee properly speaking is linked to the national 
question, which had become envenomed among the peoples of 
Brittany and in general among those alien to the slogan of the 
"single and indivisible republic" and to the policy of bureaucratic- 
military centralisation — a slogan and a policy which the Jacobins 
could not renounce without committing suicide. The Girondins 
tried to exploit federalism in order to crush Jacobin Paris, but the 
provincial troops brought to Paris went over to the revolutionaries. 
Except for certain marginal areas, where the national (and linguis- 
tic) differentiation was very great, the agrarian question proved 
stronger than aspirations to local autonomy. Rural France accepted 
the hegemony of Paris; in other words, it understood that in order 
definitively to destroy the old regime it had to make a bloc with 
the most advanced elements of the Third Estate, and not with the 
Girondin moderates. If it is true that the Jacobins "forced" its 
hand, it is also true that this always occurred in the direction of 
real historical development. For not only did they organise a 
bourgeois government, i.e. make the bourgeoisie the dominant 
class — they did more. They created the bourgeois State, made the 
bourgeoisie into the leading, hegemonic class of the nation, in other 
words gave the new State a permanent basis and created the 
compact modern French nation. 

That the Jacobins, despite everything, always remained on 
bourgeois ground is demonstrated by the events which marked their 
end, as a party cast in too specific and inflexible a mould, and by 
the death of Robespierre. Maintaining the Le Chapelier law, they 
were not willing to concede to the workers the right of combination; 
as a consequence they had to pass the law of the maximum.** They 
thus broke the Paris urban bloc: their assault forces, assembled in 
the Commune, dispersed in disappointment, and Thermidor gained 
the upper hand. The Revolution had found its widest class limits. 

47 From 1793-96 royalist priests and landowners fomented peasant guerrilla 
warfare against the Republic in the "Vendee region in western France. 

" The Le Chapelier law of June I7gi was brought in to dissolve the craft guilds 
which had survived from the tmcien regime. Although it was in conception a "pro- 
gressive" bourgeois measure, it was used throughout the first half of the nineteenth 
century to ban workers' associations. 

The law of the maximum fixed a ceiling for food prices and for wages, and 
drove a wedge between the Jacobins and the workers. 



The policy of alliances and of permanent revolution had finished 
by posing new questions which at that time could not be resolved; 
it had unleashed elemental forces which only a military dictatorship 
was to succeed in containing. 49 

In the Action Party there was nothing to be found which 
resembled this Jacobin approach, this inflexible will to become the 
"leading" [dirigente] party. Naturally one has to allow for the 
differences: in Italy the struggle manifested itself as a struggle 

48 Gramsci is here referring to what he elsewhere terms the "forty-eightist" 
slogan of "permanent revolution", since it was first put forward by Marx during 
the 1 848 wave of bourgeois revolutions in the belief that these would lead directly 
to proletarian revolutions. See notably the 1850 "Address of the Central Com- 
mittee to the Communist League": "While the democratic petty bourgeoisie wish 
to bring the revolution to a conclusion as quickly as possible, and with the achieve- 
ment, at most, of the above demands, it is our interest and our task to make the 
revolution permanent, until all more or less possessing classes have been forced 
out of their position of dominance, until the proletariat has conquered state 
power, . . . Their battle cry must be : 'The Revolution in Permanence'." 

See too NM. pp. 102-3: "The development of Jacobinism (of content), and 
of the formula of Permanent Revolution put into practice in the active phase of 
the French Revolution, found its juridical constitutional 'completion' in the 
parliamentary regime. The latter, in the period in which 'private' energies in 
society were most plentiful, realised the permanent hegemony of the urban class 
over the entire population in the Hegelian form of government with permanently 
organised consent. (However, this organisation of consent was left to private 
initiative, and was thus of a moral or ethical character, because it was consent 
'voluntarily' given in one way or another.) The 'limit' which the Jacobins had 
come up against in the Le Chapelier law and in the law of the maximum was 
transcended and pushed progressively back in the course of a whole process, in 
which propagandists and practical (economic, political-juridical) activity 
alternated. The economic base was continually enlarged and reinforced through 
industrial and commercial development. Those social elements which were most 
highly endowed with energy and spirit of enterprise rose from the lower classes to 
the ruling classes. The entire society was in a continuous process of formation and 
dissolution, followed by more complex formations with richer potentialities. This, 
broadly speaking, lasted until the epoch of imperialism and culminated in the 
world war. In this process, attempts at insurrection alternated with pitiless 
repression, enlargements of political suffrage with restrictions, freedom of associa- 
tion with restriction or annulment of that freedom. . . . The 'normal' exercise of 
hegemony on the now classical terrain of the parliamentary regime is characterised 
by the combination of force and consent, which balance each other reciprocally, 
without force predominating excessively over consent. Indeed, the attempt is 
always made to ensure that force will appear to be based on the consent of the 
majority, expressed by the so called organs of public opinion newspapers and 
associations which, therefore, in certain situations, are artificially multiplied. 
Between consent and force stands corruption/fraud (which is characteristic of 
certain situations when it is hard to exercise the hegemonic function, and when the 
use of force is too risky). This consists in procuring the demoralisation and 
paralysis of the antagonist (or antagonists) by buying its leaders —either covertly, 
or, in cases of imminent danger, openly in order to sow disarray and confusion 
in his ranks. In the period following the World War, cracks opened up everywhere 
in the hegemonic apparatus, and the exercise of hegemony became permanently 
difficult and aleatory." 



against old treaties and the existing international order, and 
against a foreign power — Austria — which represented these and 
upheld them in Italy, occupying a part of the peninsula and con- 
trolling the rest. This problem arose in France too, in a certain sense 
at least, since at a certain point the internal struggle became a 
national struggle fought at the frontiers. But this only happened 
after the whole territory had been won for the revolution, and the 
Jacobins were able to utilise the external threat as a spur to greater 
energy internally : they well understood that in order to defeat the 
external foe they had to crush his allies internally, and they did not 
hesitate to carry out the September massacres. 50 In Italy, although 
a similar connection, both explicit and implicit, did exist between 
Austria and at least a segment of the intellectuals, the nobles and 
the landowners, it was not denounced by the Action Party; or at 
least it was not denounced with the proper energy and in the most 
practically effective manner, and it did not become a real political 
issue. It became transformed "curiously" into a question of greater 
or lesser patriotic dignity, and subsequently gave rise to a trail of 
acrimonious and sterile polemics which continued even after 1898.* 

60 Between 2 and 5 September 1792, at the insistence notably of Marat, some 
1200 royalist prisoners were massacred. They were accused of having by their 
treachery brought about the defeats suffered by the revolutionary annies prior to 
the battle of Valmy. 

* See the articles of Rerum Scriptor in Critica Sociale after the resumption of 
publication, and the book by Romualdo Bonfadini, Mezzo secolo di patrioltismo 
["Haifa century of patriotism"], Milan 1886. The question of the "testimony"" 
of Federico Confalonieri should be recalled in this respect: Bonfadini, in the 
above-mentioned book, asserts in a note that he has seen the collection of the 
"testimony" in the State Archives of Milan, and he refers to some 80 dossiers. 
Others have always denied that this collection of testimony exists in Italy, thus 
explaining its non-publication. In an article (published in 1925) by Senator 
Salata, charged with carrying out research in the Viennese archives on documents 
concerning Italy, it was claimed that the testimony had been traced and would 
be published. Recall the fact that at a certain time Civiltd Cattolica challenged the 
liberals to publish it, asserting that if it was known it would blow sky high, no 
less, the unity of the State. In the Confalonieri question, the most remarkable fact 
is that unlike other patriots pardoned by Austria, Confalonieri, who had been a 
remarkable politician, withdrew from active life and after his liberation maintained 
a very reserved bearing. The whole Confalonieri question should be critically 
re-examined, together with the attitude assumed by him and his companions, and 
an analysis in depth made of the memoirs written by the individuals involved 
(when they wrote any). For the polemics which they provoked, the memoirs of the 
Frenchman Alexandre Andryane are interesting; he treats Confalonieri with 
great respect and admiration, whereas he attacks Giorgio Pallavicino for his 

sl "Costituti" are more precisely statements made under pre-trial interrogation; 
the word has no exact English equivalent. 

Federico Confalonieri (1 785-1 846) was a conspirator, inventor and journalist. 
He was a member of the "Itdici" in opposition to Napoleon in 18 14, and subse- 



In connection with the attempts — some even recent — to defend the 
attitude towards Austria assumed by the Lombard aristocracy, 
especially after the attempted insurrection at Milan in February 
1853 and during the vice-regency of Maximilian, 62 it should be 
recalled that Alessandro Luzio, whose historical work is always 
tendentious and acrimonious against the democrats, goes so far as 
to justify the faithful services rendered to Austria by Salvotti: 
hardly a Jacobin spirit ! The comic note in the discussion is provided 
by Alfredo Panzini, who, in his Life ofCavour, rings all the changes — 
as affected as they are nauseating and Jesuitical — on a "tiger-skin" 
displayed from an aristocrat's window during a visit to Milan by 
Franz Josef! 53 

The conceptions of Missiroli, Gobetti, Dorso, etc., on the Italian 
Risorgimento as a "royal conquest", should be considered from all 
these points of view. 

If in Italy a Jacobin party was not formed, the reasons are to be 
sought in the economic field, that is to say in the relative weakness 
of the Italian bourgeoisie and in the different historical climate in 
Europe after 18 15. The limit reached by the Jacobins, in their 
policy of forced reawakening of French popular energies to be 
allied with the bourgeoisie, with the Le Chapelier law and that of 
the maximum, appeared in 1848 as a "spectre" which was already 
threatening — and this was skilfully exploited by Austria, by the old 
governments and even by Cavour (quite apart from the Pope). The 
bourgeoisie could not (perhaps) extend its hegemony further over 
the great popular strata— which it did succeed in embracing in 
France — (could not for subjective rather than objective reasons) ; but 
action directed at the peasantry was certainly always possible. 
Differences between France, Germany and Italy in the process by 
which the bourgeoisie took power (and England). It was in France 
that the process was richest in developments, and in active and 

quently of the anti-Austrian "federati" with wide contacts in French liberal circles. 
He tried to introduce gas-lighting and river steamboats during this period. In 
1821 he plotted a rising in Lombardy to coincide with the Piedmont rising of that 
year. He was arrested, and his interrogation and trial lasted until 1 823, when he 
was sentenced to death — though this was commuted to life imprisonment, and 
later to exile. 

11 Arch-duke Maximilian of Austria was vice-regent of Lombardy from 1857 
to 1859. The attempted anti-Austrian insurrection of 6 February 1853, involving 
workers and artisans inspired by Mazzini's ideas, was a failure; the aristocrats 
did not back it. 

M Panzini contrasts Cavour's refusal to pay any official respects to the Austrian 
Emperor when he visited his Italian possessions in 1857 with the attitude of the 
Lombard aristocracy who paid him homage — including one lady who decorated 
her balcony with a tiger-skin in his honour. 


8 3 

positive political elements. In Germany, it evolved in ways which in 
certain aspects resembled what happened in Italy, and in others 
what happened in England. In Germany, the movement of 1848 
failed as a result of the scanty bourgeois concentration (the Jacobin- 
type slogan was furnished by the democratic Far Left: "permanent 
revolution"), and because the question of renewal of the State was 
intertwined with the national question. The wars of 1864, 1866 
and 1870 54 resolved both the national question and, in an inter- 
mediate form, the class question: the bourgeoisie obtained economic- 
industrial power, but the old feudal classes remained as the govern- 
ing stratum of the political State, with wide corporate privileges in 
the army, the administration and on the land. Yet at least, if these 
old classes kept so much importance in Germany and enjoyed so 
many privileges, they exercised a national function, became the 
"intellectuals" of the bourgeoisie, with a particular temperament 
conferred by their caste origin and by tradition. In England, where 
the bourgeois revolution took place before that in France, we have 
a similar phenomenon to the German one of fusion between the old 
and the new — this notwithstanding the extreme energy of the 
English "Jacobins", i.e. Cromwell's "roundheads". The old aristo- 
cracy remained as a governing stratum, with certain privileges, and 
it too became the intellectual stratum of the English bourgeoisie 
(it should be added that the English aristocracy has an open 
structure, and continually renews itself with elements coming from 
the intellectuals and the bourgeoisie).* The explanation given by 
Antonio Labriola of the fact that the Junkers and Kaiserism 
continued in power in Germany, despite the great capitalist 
development, adumbrates the correct explanation: the class 
relations created by industrial development, with the limits of 
bourgeois hegemony reached and the position of the progressive 
classes reversed, have induced the bourgeoisie not to struggle with 
all its strength against the old regime, but to allow a part of the 
latter's facade to subsist, behind which it can disguise its own real 

54 With Denmark, Austria and France respectively. 

* Certain observations contained in the preface to the English translation of 
Utopia and Science should be looked at in this connection. These are worth recalling 
for the research into intellectuals and their historico-social functions. 56 

66 The reference is to Engels' Socialism: Utopian and Scientific. The major part of 
the new preface to the English edition of 1892 is relevant to Gramsci's problematic 
here. See Marx/Engels, Selected Works, Vol. II, pp. 105-15, Lawrence and Wishartj 
London, 1958. See too "Merits of the Ruling Class" on pp. 269--270, and note 6 
on p. 216. 

8 4 


These variations in the actual process whereby the same historical 
development manifests itself in different countries have to be 
related not only to the differing combinations of internal relations 
within the different nations, but also to the differing international 
relations (international relations are usually underestimated in this 
kind of research). The Jacobin spirit, audacious, dauntless, is 
certainly related to the hegemony exercised for so long by France 
in Europe, as well as to the existence of an urban centre like Paris 
and to the centralisation attained in France thanks to the absolute 
monarchy. The Napoleonic wars on the other hand, intellectually 
so fertile for the renovation of Europe, nonetheless through their 
enormous destruction of manpower — and these were men taken 
from among the boldest and most enterprising — weakened not only 
the militant political energy of France but that of other nations as 

International relations were certainly very important in determi- 
ning the line of development of the Italian Risorgimento, but they 
were exaggerated by the Moderate Party, and by Cavour for party 
reasons. Cavour's case is noteworthy in this connection. Before the 
Quarto 56 expedition and the crossing of the Straits, he feared 
Garibaldi's initiative like the devil, because of the international 
complications which it might create. He was then himself impelled 
by the enthusiasm created by the Thousand in European opinion 
to the point where he saw as feasible an immediate new war against 
Austria. There existed in Cavour a certain professional diplomat's 
distortion, which led him to see "too many" difficulties, and induced 
him into "conspiratorial" exaggerations, and into prodigies (which 
to a considerable extent were simply tightrope-walking) of subtlety 
and intrigue. In any case Cavour acted eminently as a party man. 
Whether in fact his party represented the deepest and most durable 
national interests, even if only in the sense of the widest extension 
which could be given to the community of interests between the 
bourgeoisie and the popular masses, is another question.* 

In examining the political and military leadership imposed on 
the national movement before and after 1848, it is necessary to make 

t6 It was at Quarto, near Genoa, that Garibaldi lived prior to the Sicilian 
expedition, and from there that the expedition set sail. 

* With respect to the "Jacobin" slogan [permanent revolution] formulated in 
1 848-49, its complex fortunes are worth studying. Taken up again, systematised, 
developed, intellectualised by the Parvus-Bronstein [Trotsky] group, it proved 
inert and ineffective in 1 905, and subsequently. It had become an abstract thing, 
belonging in the scientist's cabinet. The [Bolshevik] tendency which opposed it 
in this literary form, and indeed did not use it "on purpose", applied it in fact in 



certain preliminary observations of method and terminology. By 
military leadership should be understood not only military leader- 
ship in the strict, technical sense, i.e. with reference to the strategy 
and the tactics of the Piedmontese army, or of Garibaldi's troops or 
of the various militias improvised in the course of local insurrections 
(Five Days of Milan, defence of Venice, defence of the Roman 
Republic, Palermo insurrection of 1848, etc.). It should be under- 
stood rather in a far wider sense, and one which is more closely 
connected with political leadership properly speaking. The essential 
problem which had to be faced from the military point of view was 
that of expelling from the peninsula a foreign power, Austria, which 
had at its disposal one of the largest armies in Europe at that time, 
and whose supporters in the peninsula itself, moreover, even in 
Piedmont, were neither few nor weak. Consequently, the military 
problem was the following: how to succeed in mobilising an 
insurrectional force which was capable not only of expelling the 
Austrian army from the peninsula, but of preventing it from being 
able to come back with a counter-offensive — given the fact that the 
violent expulsion would endanger the complex structure of the 
Empire, and hence would galvanise all the forces interested in its 
cohesion for a reconquest. 

Numerous abstract solutions to the problem were presented, all 
of them contradictory and ineffective. "Italy will go it alone" was 
the Piedmontese slogan of 1848, but it meant catastrophic defeat. 
The uncertain, ambiguous, timid and at the same time foolhardy 
policies of the right-wing Piedmontese parties was the principal 
reason for the defeat. They were capable only of petty cunning. 
They were the cause of the withdrawal of the armies of the other 
Italian States, those of Naples and of Rome, when they showed too 
early that they wanted Piedmontese expansion and not an Italian 
confederation. They did not favour, but opposed the volunteer 
movement. They, in short, wanted the only military victors to be 
the Piedmontese generals, incapable of commanding in so difficult 
a war. The absence of a popular policy was disastrous. The Lombard 
and Venetian peasants enrolled by Austria were one of the most 
effective instruments for suffocating the Vienna revolution, and 

a form which adhered to actual, concrete, living history, adapted to the time and 
the place; as something that sprang from all the pores of the particular society 
which had to be transformed ; as the alliance of two social groups [i.e. proletariat 
and peasantry] with the hegemony of the urban group. In one case, you had the 
Jacobin temperament without an adequate political content; in the second, a 
Jacobin temperament and content derived from the new historical relations, and 
not from a literary and intellectualistic label. 



hence also that of Italy. For the peasants the movement in 
Lombardy-Veneto, like the Viennese movement, was an affair of 
gentlemen and of students. Whereas the Italian national parties 
ought to have, by their policies, brought about or assisted the 
dissolution of the Austrian Empire, in fact by their inertia they saw 
to it that the Italian regiments were one of the best supports for 
Austrian reaction. In the struggle between Piedmont and Austria, 
the strategic objective could not be that of destroying the Austrian 
army and occupying the enemy's territory, for this would have been 
an unattainable and Utopian objective. But it could have been that 
of dissolving Austria's internal cohesion, and of assisting the liberals 
to gain power firmly and change the political structure of the 
Empire into a federalist one, or at least to create within it a pro- 
longed state of internal struggles which would give a breathing- 
space to the Italian national forces, and permit them to regroup 
themselves politically and militarily.* 

Having started the war with the slogan "Italy will go it alone", 
after the defeat, when the entire undertaking was endangered, an 
attempt was made to gain French assistance. This occurred pre- 
cisely at the time when, partly as a result of the reinforcement of 
Austria, the reactionaries had come to power in France — the 
enemies of a unitary and strong Italian State, and also of Pied- 
montese expansion. 58 France did not wish to give Piedmont even 
an experienced general, and the latter had to turn to the Pole 

Military leadership was a larger question than the leadership of 

* The same error was committed by Sonnino during the World War, and that 
in the face of Cadorna's protests. Sonnino did not desire the destruction of the 
Habsburg Empire, and refused any nationalities policy." Even after Caporetto, 
a nationalitarian policy was adopted reluctantly and in a Malthusian manner, and 
therefore did not give the swifter results which it could have given. 

57 i.e., any support for the right of self-determination which might have 
allowed Italy to forge alliances with the various disaffected ethnic minorities 
within the Habsburg Empire. Giorgio Sonnino (1847-1924) was a conservative 
politician, prime minister in 1906 and again in 1909, and foreign minister during 
the First World War (191 5-18). For Cadorna, see note 29 on p. 145. 

" The Piedmontese under Chrzanowski were defeated by the Austrians at 
Novara in March 1849. As Marx expressed it in The Class Struggles in France: 
"Piedmont was beaten, Charles-Albert had abdicated and the Austrian army 
knocked at the gates of France." Marx goes on to describe how the French expedi- 
tion in Italy, instead of following its proclaimed aim of support for the Italians 
against Austria, in fact intervened against the Roman Republic. On 1 1 May the 
National Assembly rejected a bill of impeachment against Bonaparte and his 
ministers, and as Marx put it: "the Constituent Assembly . . . admits ... on 
1 1 May that the bombastically proclaimed passive alliance of the French republic 
with the struggling peoples means its active alliance with the European counter- 



the army and the working out of the strategic plan which the army 
was to execute. It included also the politico-insurrectional mobilisa- 
tion of popular forces who would rise in revolt at the enemy's back 
and obstruct his movements and logistic services; and the creation 
of mass auxiliary and reserve forces from which new regiments 
could be drawn, and which would give to the "technical" army an 
atmosphere of enthusiasm and ardour. 

The policy of popular mobilisation was not carried out even after 
1849; indeed stupid quibbles were made about the events of 1849 
in order to intimidate the democratic tendencies. The right-wing 
national policy became involved, during the second period of the 
Risorgimento, in a search for the assistance of Bonapartist France, 
and balanced the strength of Austria with the French alliance. The 
policies of the Right in 1848 delayed the unification of the peninsula 
by more than two decades. 

The uncertainties of political and military leadership, the con- 
tinual oscillations between despotism and constitutionalism, had 
their disastrous repercussions within the Piedmontese army too. 
It may safely be asserted that the more numerous an army is — 
whether in an absolute sense as a recruited mass, or in a relative 
sense as a proportion of recruited men to the total population — the 
more the importance of political leadership increases in comparison 
with merely technical-military leadership. The combativity of the 
Piedmontese army was extremely high at the start of the campaign 
of 1848 : the rightists believed that this combativity was an expression 
of a purely abstract military and dynastic spirit, and began to 
intrigue to restrain popular freedoms and to tone down expectations 
of a democratic future. The "morale" of the army fell. Herein lies 
the entire debate about "fatal Novara". At Novara the army did 
not want to fight, and therefore was defeated. The "rightists" 
accused the democrats of having introduced politics into the army 
and split it: an inept accusation, since constitutionalism precisely 
"nationalised" the army, made it into an element of general 
politics, and thereby strengthened it militarily. The accusation is 
all the more inept in that the army perceives a political change of 
leadership [or direction], without any need for "splitters", from a 
host of little changes — each one of which might seem insignificant 
and negligible, but which together form a new, asphyxiating 
atmosphere. Those who are responsible for the splits are conse- 
quently those who have altered the political leadership, without 
foreseeing the military consequences; those who, in other words, 
have substituted a bad policy for the previous good one — good, 



because in conformity with its objective. The army is also an 
"instrument" for a particular end, but it is made up of thinking 
men and not of robots who can be utilised to the limits of their 
mechanical and physical cohesion. Even if one can and must, in 
this case too, speak in terms of what is expedient and appropriate 
to the objective, it is nevertheless also necessary to add the qualifica- 
tion: in accordance with the nature of the given instrument. If you 
hit a nail with a wooden mallet with the same strength with which 
you would hit it with a steel hammer, the nail will go into the 
mallet instead of into the wall. Correct political leadership is 
necessary even with an army of professional mercenaries (even in 
the companies of fortune there was a minimum of political leader- 
ship, apart from of a technical-military kind) ; it is all the more 
necessary with a national, conscript army. The question becomes 
even more complex and difficult in wars of position, 69 fought by 
huge masses who are only able to endure the immense muscular, 
nervous and psychic strain with the aid of great reserves of moral 
strength. Only a very skilful political leadership, capable of taking 
into account the deepest aspirations and feelings of those human 
masses, can prevent disintegration and defeat. 

Military leadership must always be subordinate to political 
leadership, or in other words the strategic plan must be the military 
expression of a particular general policy. Naturally, it may be that 
in a given situation the politicians are inept, while in the army there 
are leaders who combine military ability with political ability: it 
was the case with Caesar and with Napoleon. But we have seen how 
in Napoleon's case the change of policies, combined with the 
presumption that he had a military instrument which was military 
in the abstract, brought about his downfall. Even in those cases in 
which political and military leadership is united in the same person, 
it is the political moment which must prevail over the military. 
Caesar's Commentaries are a classical example of the exhibition of an 
intelligent combination of political art and military art: the soldiers 
saw in Caesar not only a great military leader but especially their 
political leader, the leader of democracy. It should be recalled how 
Bismarck, following Clausewitz, maintained the supremacy of the 
political moment over the military; whereas Wilhelm II, as Ludwig 
records, scribbled furious notes on a newspaper in which Bismarck's 
opinion was quoted. Thus the Germans won almost all the battles 
brilliantly, but lost the war. 

69 See "Political struggle and military war" on pp. 229 39 below, and intro- 
duction to "State and Civil Society" pp. 206 g. 



There exists a certain tendency to overestimate the contribution 
of the popular classes to the Risorgimento, stressing especially the 
phenomenon of volunteers. The most serious and thoughtful things 
on the subject were written by Ettore Rota in Nuova Rivista Storica, 
in 1928-29. Apart from the observation made in another note 60 
about the significance which should be accorded to the volunteers, 
it should be pointed out that the writings of Rota themselves show 
how the volunteers were viewed with disfavour and sabotaged by 
the Piedmontese authorities — which precisely confirms their bad 
politico-military leadership. The Piedmontese government could 
forcibly enrol soldiers within its own territory in proportion to its 
population, just as Austria could in its territory and in proportion 
to an enormously larger population. An all-out war on these terms 
would always have been disastrous for Piedmont after a certain 
time. Given the principle that "Italy goes it alone", it was necessary 
either to accept immediately a confederation with the other Italian 
States, or to propose territorial unity on such a radically popular 
basis that the masses would have been induced to rise up against 
the other governments, and would have constituted volunteer 
armies who would have hastened to the support of the Piedmontese. 
But precisely here lay the problem. The right-wing tendencies in 
Piedmont either did not want auxiliaries, thinking that they could 
defeat the Austrians with the regular Piedmontese forces alone (and 
it is incomprehensible how they could have had such presumption), 
or else would have liked to have been helped for nothing (and here 
too it is incomprehensible how serious politicians could have asked 
such an absurdity). In real life, one cannot ask for enthusiasm, 
spirit of sacrifice, etc. without giving anything in return, even from 
the subjects of one's own country; all the less can one ask these 
things of citizens from outside that country, on the basis of a generic 
and abstract programme and a blind faith in a far-distant govern- 
ment. This was the drama of 1 848 and 1 849, but it is certainly not 
fair therefore to despise the Italian people; the responsibility for the 
disaster should be attributed either to the Moderates or to the 
Action Party — in other words, in the last analysis, to the immaturity 
and the scanty effectiveness of the ruling classes. 

These observations concerning the deficiencies of political and 
military leadership in the Risorgimento might be met with a very 
trivial and threadbare argument: "those men were not dema- 
gogues, they did not go in for demagogy". Another very widespread 

90 See "Voluntarism and social masses" on pp. 202-5 below. 



triviality used to parry negative judgements on the strategic abilities 
of the leaders of the national movement consists in repeating in 
various ways and forms that the national movement's capacity to 
act was due to the merit of the educated classes solely. Where the 
merit lies is hard to see. The merit of an educated class, because it 
is its historical function, is to lead the popular masses and develop 
their progressive elements. If the educated class has not been 
capable of fulfilling its function, one should speak not of merit but 
of demerit — in other words, of immaturity and intrinsic weakness. 
Similarly, it is necessary to be clear about the term, and the concept, 
of demagogy. Those men in effect were not capable of leading the 
people, were not capable of arousing their enthusiasm and their 
passion, if one is to take demagogy in its original meaning. Did they 
at least attain the end which they set themselves? They said that 
they were aiming at the creation of a modern State in Italy, and they 
in fact produced a bastard. They aimed at stimulating the formation 
of an extensive and energetic ruling class, and they did not succeed; 
at integrating the people into the framework of the new State, and 
they did not succeed. The paltry political life from 1870 to 1900, 
the fundamental and endemic rebelliousness of the Italian popular 
classes, the narrow and stunted existence of a sceptical and cowardly 
ruling stratum, these are all the consequences of that failure. A 
consequence of it too is the international position of the new State, 
lacking effective autonomy because sapped internally by the 
Papacy and by the sullen passivity of the great mass of the people. 
In reality, furthermore, the rightists of the Risorgimento were great 
demagogues. They made the people-nation into an instrument, 
into an object, they degraded it. And therein lies the greatest and 
most contemptible demagogy, precisely in the sense which the term 
has assumed on the lips of the right-wing parties when they polemi- 
cise against those of the left — although it has always been the right- 
wing parties who have shown the worst demagogy, and who have 
often (like Napoleon III in France) appealed to the dregs of society. 
[1934: 1st version 1929-30.] 


The relations between urban population and rural population are 
not of a single, schematic type — especially in Italy. It is therefore 
necessary to establish what is meant by "urban" and "rural" in 
modern civilisation, and what combinations may result from the 



fact that antiquated and retrograde forms continue to exist in the 
general composition of the population, studied from the viewpoint 
of its greater or lesser density. Sometimes the paradox occurs that 
a rural type is more progressive than a self-styled urban type. 

An "industrial" city is always more progressive than the country- 
side which depends organically upon it. But not all Italy's cities are 
"industrial", and even fewer are typically industrial. Are the 
"hundred" Italian cities industrial? 61 Does the agglomeration of 
the population in non-rural centres, which is almost twice as great 
as in France, demonstrate that Italy's industrialisation is double 
that of France ? Urbanism in Italy is not purely, nor "especially", 
a phenomenon of capitalistic development or of that of big industry. 
Naples, which for a long time was the biggest Italian city and 
which continues to be one of the biggest, is not an industrial city: 
neither is Rome — at present the largest Italian city. Yet in these 
mediaeval- type cities too, there exist strong nuclei of populations of 
a modern urban type; but what is their relative position? They are 
submerged, oppressed, crushed by the other part, which is not of a 
modern type, and constitutes the great majority. Paradox of the 
"cities of silence". 62 

In this type of city there exists, among all social groups, an urban 
ideological unity against the countryside, a unity which even the 
most modern nuclei in terms of civil function do not escape (and 
there are such nuclei) . There is hatred and scorn for the "peasant", 
an implicit common front against the demands of the countryside — 
which, if realised, would make impossible the existence of this type 
of city. Reciprocally, there exists an aversion — which, if "generic", 
is not thereby any less tenacious or passionate — of the country for 
the city, for the whole city and all the groups which make it up. 
This general relationship is in reality very complex, and appears in 
forms which on the surface seem contradictory; it had a primary 
importance in the course of the struggles for the Risorgimento, 
when it was even more absolute and operative than it is today. 

•* Gramsci defines the "hundred cities" (on PP. p. g8) as "the agglomeration 
into burgs (cities) of the rural bourgeoisie, and the agglomeration into peasant 
villages [borgate] of great masses of agricultural labourers and landless peasants 
in areas where extensive latifundia exist (Puglie, Sicily)". 

M D'Annunzio gave the title "Cities of Silence" to a sequence of poems, mainly 
sonnets, in Elettra, the second book of his Laudi. These cities— -Ferrara, Pisa, 
Ravenna, Rimini, Assisi, Spoleto, Gubbio, Urbino, Padova, Lucca, Pistoia, 
Prato, Perugia, Spello, Montefalco, Nami, Todi, Orvieto, Arezzo, Cortona, 
Bergamo, Carrara, Volterra, Vicenza, Brescia — all had glorious pasts but are now 
of secondary importance, some little more than villages with magnificent monu- 
mental centres as a relic of their bygone splendour. 



The first blatant example of these apparent contradictions can 
be studied in the episode of the Parthenopean Republic of 1 799. as 
The city was crushed by the countryside — organised into the gangs 
of Cardinal Ruffo — for a dual reason. On the one hand the 
Republic, both in its first aristocratic phase and in its subsequent 
bourgeois phase, totally neglected the countryside. On the other, 
by holding out the possibility of a Jacobin upheaval in which 
landed property, which spent its agrarian income in Naples, would 
be dispossessed, thus depriving the great mass of the people of their 
sources of income and livelihood, it left the Neapolitan populace 
indifferent if not hostile. During the Risorgimento, moreover, there 
already appeared, embryonically, the historical relationship between 
North and South, similar to that between a great city and a great 
rural area. As this relationship was, in fact, not the normal organic 
one between a province and an industrial capital, but emerged 
between two vast territories of very different civil and cultural 
tradition, the features and the elements of a conflict of nationalities 
were accentuated. What was particularly notable during the period 
of the Risorgimento was the fact that, in the political crises, it was 
the South which initiated the action: 1799 Naples, 1820-21 
Palermo, 1847 Messina and Sicily, 1847-48 Sicily and Naples. 
Another notable fact was the particular character which each of 
these movements assumed in Central Italy, like a middle way 
between North and South; the period of popular (or relatively 
popular) initiative lasted from 181 5 until 1849, and culminated in 
Tuscany and the Papal States (Romagna and Lunigiana must 
always be considered as belonging to the Centre) . These peculiari- 
ties reoccurred subsequently as well: the events of June 1814 
culminated in certain regions of the Centre (Romagna and Marche) ; 
the crisis which began in Sicily in 1 893, and spread into the Mezzo- 
giorno and Lunigiana, culminated in 1898 at Milan; in 191 9 there 

63 The Parthenopean Republic was proclaimed at Naples in January 1799, as 
Napoleon's troops approached. The work of an enlightened, "Jacobin" bourgeoi- 
sie, a large section of the city's aristocracy rallied to it (e.g. Cuoco see note 1 1 
on p. sg). The French troops, however, braked the revolutionary aims of the 
Neapolitan bourgeoisie, and prevented the measures to destroy feudalism which 
could have won the countryside. Cardinal Ruffo, with British support, raised the 
countryside against the town, and when the French were forced by military set- 
backs in the North to withdraw in March, the Republic's days were numbered. 
The bourgeois regime was under attack both from outside and from the "sanfedisti" 
— a movement in support of the Bourbons among the lumpen-proletariat within, 
and it capitulated in June after a generous amnesty offer by Ruffo. The Bourbons 
then repudiated this amnesty, and there ensued a pitiless repression, with I2g execu- 
tions and thousands of imprisonments and exiles, which decimated the Neapolitan 
intellectuals and destroyed finally any consensual basis for Bourbon rule. 



were the invasions of the land in the Mezzogiorno and in Sicily, in 
1920 the occupation of the factories in the North. 64 This relative 
synchronism and simultaneity on the one hand shows the existence, 
ever since 181 5, of a relatively homogeneous politico-economic 
structure; on the other it shows how in periods of crisis it is the 
weakest and most marginal sector which reacts first. 

The relation of city to countryside pertaining between North and 
South may also be studied in their differing cultural conceptions 
and mental attitudes. Allusion has already been made to the fact 
that B. Croce and G. Fortunato, at the beginning of the century, 
were at the head of a cultural movement which, in one way 
or another, counterposed itself to the cultural movement of the 
North (idealism against positivism, classicism or classicity against 
futurism). 65 It should be pointed out, however, that Sicily distin- 
guishes itself from the Mezzogiorno — including from a cultural point 
of view: if Crispi can be seen as the man of Northern industrialism, 
Pirandello is also generally nearer to futurism. Gentile and actualism 
are also nearer to the futurist movement (understood in a wide 
sense, as opposition to traditional classicism; as a form of contempo- 
rary romanticism). 86 The intellectual strata of North and South 
differ in structure and in origin: in the Mezzogiorno the pre- 
dominant type is still the pettifogging lawyer [paglietta], who ensures 
contact between the peasant masses and the landowners and State 
apparatus. In the North the dominant type is the factory "tech- 
nician", who acts as a link between the mass of the workers and the 
management. The link with the State used to be a function of the 

44 The events of June 1814 were a series of bourgeois risings, in connection with 
an attempt by Murat to unite Italy from his base in Naples. Murat was defeated 
by the Austrians at Tolentino, and fled to Corsica. The Austrians launched a wave 
of repression aimed at the bourgeois liberals implicated in the risings. 

For the Sicilian Fasci of i8g3 g4, see note 25 on p. 67. In i8g8 the Milan 
workers demonstrated against rising prices and lack of food, and were bloodily 
repressed by General Bava Beccaris. For the occupation of the factories in 1920, 
see Introduction, p. xliii. 

65 See p. 72 and note 3g on p. 72. 

'* Crispi, Pirandello and Gentile were all Sicilians. 

The futurist movement was launched by Marinetti in his Futurist Manifesto 
of 1909, and celebrated the vitality of the modem age, especially in its technical 
progress which was seen as sweeping away the old order. Gramsci, in a 1922 
letter to Trotsky who had requested information on futurism for his "Literature and 
Revolution", described how the workers before the World War "had seen in 
futurism the elements of a struggle against the old academic culture of Italy, 
mummified and alien to the popular masses . . .". But during the war the futurists 
were violent interventionists, and subsequently their positions converged on the 
one hand with fascism and on the other with d'Annunzio's nationalism. Marinetti 
stood as a parliamentary candidate on Mussolini's list in igig. 



trade-union and political party organisations, led by a completely 
new intellectual stratum (the present State syndicalism, 67 whose 
consequence is the systematic diffusion of this social type on a 
national scale in a more coherent and thorough way than was 
possible for the old trade unions, is up to a certain point and in a 
certain sense an instrument of moral and political unification) . 

This complex city-countryside relationship can be studied in the 
general political programmes which were striving to assert them- 
selves before the Fascists achieved governmental power. The pro- 
gramme of Giolitti 88 and the democratic liberals had the aim of 
creating an "urban" bloc (of industrialists and workers) in the 
North; this was to be the basis for a protectionist system, and 
reinforce the economy and Northern hegemony. The Mezzogiorno 
was reduced to the status of a semi-colonial market, a source of 
savings and taxes, and was kept "disciplined" by measures of two 
kinds. First, police measures: pitiless repression of every mass 
movement, with periodical massacres of peasants.* Second, political- 
police measures: personal favours to the "intellectual" stratum or 
paglietta — in the form of jobs in the public administration; of 
licence to pillage the local administration with impunity; and of 
ecclesiastical legislation less rigidly applied than elsewhere, leaving 
considerable patrimony at the disposal of the clergy, etc. — i.e. 
incorporation of the most active Southern elements "individually" 
into the leading personnel of the State, with particular "judicial" 
and bureaucratic privileges, etc. Thus the social stratum which 
could have organised the endemic Southern discontent, instead 
became an instrument of Northern policy, a kind of auxiliary 
private police. Southern discontent, for lack of leadership, did not 
succeed in assuming a normal political form; its manifestations, 
finding expression only in an anarchic turbulence, were presented 
as a "matter for the police" and the courts. In reality men like 
Croce and Fortunato abetted this form of corruption, even if 

87 i.e. the "corporations" to which workers had compulsorily to belong in 
fascist Italy. 

88 Giovanni Giolitti (1842 1928) dominated Italian parliamentary politics 
between 1900 and 1914, and was prime minister in 1892 93, 1906-09, 1911-14, 
and 192c— 21 (when he encouraged the fascists as a counter-balancing force to the 
socialists). Gramsci analyses his policy at greater length in Alcuni temi. 

* In his obituary of Giolitti in Nuova Antologia, 1 August 1928, Spectator 
(Missiroli) expressed surprise that Giolitti was always strenuously opposed to any 
dissemination of socialism or syndicalism in the South. But in fact the thing is 
natural and obvious, since a working-class protectionism — reformism, co- 
operatives, public works is only possible if partial; in other words, every 
privilege presupposes somebody being sacrificed and exploited. 



passively and indirectly, by means of their fetishistic conception of 

There was also a politico-moral factor which should not be 
forgotten; this was the campaign of intimidation waged against 
every assertion, however objective, that there existed motives for 
conflict between North and South. One might recall the conclusion 
of the Pais-Serra enquiry into Sardinia, after the commercial crisis 
of the decade 1890-1900; also the accusation, recalled earlier, which 
was hurled by Crispi at the Sicilian Fasci, of being sold to the 
English. 70 This form of hysterical unitarianism was especially 
prevalent among the Sicilian intellectuals (as a consequence of the 
formidable peasant pressure on the nobility's land, and also of the 
local popularity of Crispi) ; it even revealed itself quite recently in 
Natoli's attack on Croce for an innocuous reference to Sicilian 
separatism in relation to the Kingdom of Naples (see Croce's reply 
in Critied). 11 

Giolitti's programme was "upset" by two factors: 1. the coming 
to the fore of the intransigents in the Socialist Party under the 
leadership of Mussolini, and their flirtation with the Southernists 
(free exchange, the Molfetta election, etc.), which destroyed the 
Northern urban bloc; 72 2. the introduction of universal suffrage, 
which enlarged the parliamentary base of the Mezzogiorno to an 
unprecedented extent, and made individual corruption difficult 
(too many to be easily corrupted — hence appearance of political 
thugs). Giolitti changed partners: he replaced the urban bloc by 
(or rather counterposed to it, in order to prevent its complete 

* See the Fortunato Salvemini episode in connection with Uniia, recounted by 
Prezzolini in the first edition oiCultura Italiana. (a 

*' For Fortunato, see note 39 on p. 72; for Salvemini, see p. xx ff. Introduction. 
Salvemini's "Uniia" was published 1911 15 and 1918-20, and suggested to 
Gramsci the name for the subsequent official organ of the PCI, founded in 1924. 
In the first edition of La Coltura Jtaliana (see note 41 on p. 72), Prezzolini wrote of 
Uniia : "its title came from senator Fortunato, concerned for that 'unity of Italy' 
which, to his historian's mind, has always seemed neither entirely nor solidly 

70 See note 26 on p. 67. 

71 See Luigi Natoli, Rivindicazioni aiiraverso le rivoluzioni siciliant del 1848-60, 
commented on by Gramsci on PP. pp. 135 36. 

" For the intransigent wing of the PSI, see General Introduction; they were 
opposed to any collaboration, however indirect, with the bourgeois govern- 
ment — hence making impossible a continuation of the effective bloc between 
Giolitti and the reformist leaders of the PSI. Mussolini, as editor of Avanli!, was 
their main spokesman until his defection in 19 14. For the Molfetta election of 
1 9 13, see following paragraph; as Gramsci explains, it showed the Corriere delta 
Sera, the voice of the Lombard industrialists, prospecting a new alliance with a 
"Southern bloc" in place of the now unviable Giolitti policy of a bloc with the 
reformist leaders of die Northern working class. 



collapse) the "Gentiloni pact". 73 This was ultimately a bloc between 
Northern industry and the farmers of the "organic and normal" 
countryside (the Catholic electoral forces coincided geographically 
with those of the socialists : i.e. they were spread over the North and 
the Centre); it had additional support in the South as well — at 
least to an extent immediately sufficient to "rectify" satisfactorily 
the consequences of the mass electorate's enlargement. 

The other programme or general political approach was the one 
which may be termed that of the Corriere della Sera, or of Luigi 
Albertini ; 74 this may be seen as an alliance between a section of the 
Northern industrialists (headed by the textile, cotton and silk 
masters — exporters and hence free traders) and the rural bloc of 
the Mezzogiorno. The Corriere supported Salvemini against Giolitti 
in the Molfetta election of 1913 (Ugo Ojetti's campaign), and it 
supported first the Salandra Ministry and subsequently that of 
Nitti 75 — in other words, the first two governments formed by 
Southern politicians.* 

The enlargement of the suffrage in 1 9 1 3 had already provoked 
the first signs of that phenomenon which was to have its maximum 
expression in 19 19-20-21 as a consequence of the politico- 
organisational experience acquired by the peasant masses during 
the war — i.e. the relative break-up of the Southern rural bloc, and 
the detachment of the peasants, led by a part of the intellectuals 
(officers during the war), from the great landowners. So one got 

73 At the elections of 1913 the first under universal suffrage Giolitti came 
to an agreement with Count Gentiloni, the president of the Catholic Electoral 
Union of Italy, whereby Catholic voters would support the governmental candi- 
dates in order to check the advance of the socialists. 

74 Luigi Albertini (1871-1941) became editor oiCorriere della Sera in 1900, and 
built it up into the major bourgeois newspaper in Italy. He was a liberal- 
conservative, in favour of intervention in the war but anti fascist; he was removed 
from the editorship of the paper in 1925, whereafter the Corriere was aligned behind 
the fascist regime. 

76 Antonio Salandra (1853 1931), a bourgeois politician of the Right, was 
prime minister in 19 14 15; he was forced to resign under neutralist pressure 
because of his support for intervention in the War, but became prime minister 
again 1915-16 after the interventionists had won the day. 

Francesco Nitti (1 868-1953) was an economist and centrist politician, prime 
minister 1919 20. 

* The Sicilians have to be considered separately. They have always had a lion's 
share in all Ministries from i860 onwards, and have had several Presidents of the 
Council unlike the Mezzogiorno, whose first leader was Salandra. This Sicilian 
"invasion" is to be explained by the blackmailing policy of the island's parties, 
who secretly have always maintained a "separatist" spirit in favour of England. 
Crispi's accusation' 6 was, in an ill considered form, the manifestation of a pre- 
occupation which really obsessed the most responsible and sensitive national 
ruling group. 

76 See note 26 on p. 67. 



Sardism, 77 one got the Sicilian reformist party (the so-called Bonomi 
parliamentary group was constituted by Bonomi and 22 Sicilian 
deputies), 78 with its extreme separatist wing represented by Sicilia 
Nuova; and one got the Rinnovamento group in the Mezzogiorno, 
made up of war-veterans, which attempted to set up regional action 
parties similar to that of Sardinia.* In this movement, the autono- 
mous importance of the peasant masses decreases progressively 
from Sardinia via the Mezzogiorno to Sicily, depending on the 
organised strength, the prestige, and the ideological pressure 
exercised by the great landowners. In Sicily these are maximally 
well-organised and united; in Sardinia on the other hand they have 
relatively small importance. The relative independence of the 
respective intellectual strata varies in a similar fashion — in inverse 
proportion, of course, to that of the landowners.** 

In order to analyse the socio-political function of the intellectuals, 
it is necessary to recall and examine their psychological attitude 
towards the fundamental classes which they put into contact in the 
various fields. 80 Do they have a "paternalistic" attitude towards the 
instrumental classes? Or do they think they are an organic 
expression of them? Do they have a "servile" attitude towards the 
ruling classes, or do they think that they themselves are leaders, an 
integral part of the ruling classes? During the Risorgimento, the 
so-called Action Party had a "paternalistic" attitude; it therefore 
only succeeded to a very limited extent in bringing the great 
popular masses into contact with the State. So-called "trans- 
formism" 81 was only the parliamentary expression of the fact that 
the Action Party was incorporated in molecular fashion by the 

" Sardismo was a Sardinian autonomist movement which developed after the 
First World War. The Partito Sardo d'Azione was founded in 1920, but split when 
the fascists came to power. One section joined the fascists, another, led notably by 
Emilio Lussu, joined the A ventine opposition; its leaders were exiled, but returned 
to revive the party during the Resistance (1943 5). 

' 8 Ivanoe Bonomi (1873 1952) was at first a reformist socialist. Expelled from 
the PSI together with Bissolati in 19 12, he remained in parliament as an inde- 
pendent centrist politician, and was prime minister ig2i 22. 

* See Torraca's review Volonld, the transformation of Popolo Romano, etc." 

79 Francesco Torraca (1853 '938), Professor of comparative, and later Italian, 
literature at Naples University, and a senator from 1920. 

** By "intellectuals" must be understood not those strata commonly described 
by this term, but in general the entire social stratum which exercises an organisa- 
tional function in the wide sense- whether in the field of production, or in that of 
culture, or in that of political administration. They correspond to the NCOs and 
junior officers in the army, and also partly to the higher officers who have risen 
from the ranks. 

80 See "The Formation of the Intellectuals" on pp. 5-14 above. 

81 See note 8 on p. 58 above. 



Moderates, and that the popular masses were decapitated, not 
absorbed into the ambit of the new State. 

The relation between city and countryside is the necessary 
starting-point for the study of the fundamental motor forces of 
Italian history, and of the programmatic points in the light of 
which the Action Party's policies during the Risorgimento should 
be considered and judged. Schematically, one might have this 
picture: I. the Northern urban force; 2. the Southern rural force; 
3. the Northern-Central rural force; 4. the rural force of Sicily; 
5. that of Sardinia. The first of these forces retains its function of 
"locomotive" in any case; what is needed, therefore, is an examina- 
tion of the various "most advantageous" combinations for building 
a "train" to move forward through history as fast as possible. 
Meanwhile the first force initially has its own problems: internal 
ones — of organisation, of how to articulate its own homogeneity, of 
politico-military leadership (Piedmontese hegemony, 82 relations 
between Milan and Turin, etc.). But it remains a constant that if 
this force has attained a certain level of unity and combativity, it 
quite automatically exercises an "indirect" directive function over 
the others. Moreover, it would appear that its assumption, during 
the various phases of the Risorgimento, of an intransigent position 
of struggle against foreign domination had the result of stirring up 
the progressive forces of the South: hence the relative synchronism, 
but not simultaneity, of the movements of 1820-21, of 1831, of 
1848. 83 In 1859-60, this historico-political "mechanism" operated 
to maximum effect, since the North initiated the struggle, the 
Centre came over peacefully (or almost so), and in the South the 
Bourbon State collapsed under the (relatively weak) thrust of the 
Garibaldini. This happened because the Action Party (Garibaldi) 
intervened at the right time, after the Moderates (Cavour) had 
organised the North and Centre; i.e. it was not the same politico- 
military leadership (Moderates or Action Party) which organised 
the relative simultaneity, but the (mechanical) collaboration of the 
two leaderships, integrating successfully. 

The first force therefore had to tackle the problem of organising 
around itself the urban forces of the other national sectors, and 
especially of the South. This problem was the most difficult, fraught 

82 See "The Function of Piedmont" on pp. 104 1 06 below. 

83 1820-21 was the year of the first wave of "carbonarist" revolutions in Italy, 
France, Spain, Greece, etc. Only the Greek revolution had any durable results, 
but in various of the Italian states the risings had some initial success, notably in 
Piedmont, and at Naples. The second wave of carbonarist risings occurred in 
1 83 1, affecting notably Modena, Parma and the Papal State. 



with contradictions and undercurrents which unleashed torrents of 
passionate feelings (a farcical solution of these contradictions was 
the so-called parliamentary revolution of 1876). 84 But its solution, 
precisely for this reason, was one of the cruxes in the nation's 
development. The urban forces are socially homogeneous, hence 
must occupy positions of perfect equality. That was theoretically 
true, but historically the question posed itself differently: the urban 
forces of the North were clearly at the head of their national sector, 
while for the urban forces of the South that was not true, at least 
not to the same extent. The urban forces of the North had therefore 
to persuade those of the South that their directive function should 
be limited to ensuring the "leadership" of North over South in a 
general relation of city to countryside. In other words, the directive 
function of the Southern urban forces could not be other than a 
subordinate moment of the vaster directive function of the North. 
The most strident contradiction was created by this series of facts. 
The urban force of the South could not be considered as something 
on its own, independent of that of the North. To pose the question 
in such a way would have meant asserting in advance an incurable 
"national" rift — a rift so serious that not even a federalist solution 
would have been able to heal it. It would have meant asserting the 
existence of separate nations, between which all that could have 
been achieved was a diplomatic-military alliance against the 
common enemy, Austria. (The sole element of community or 
solidarity, in short, would have consisted simply in having a 
"common" enemy.) In reality, however, there existed only certain 
"aspects" of such a national question, not "all" the aspects nor 
even the most essential ones. The most serious aspect was the weak 
position of the Southern urban forces in relation to the rural forces, 
an unfavourable relation which sometimes took the form of a 
literal subjugation of the city to the countryside. The close links 
between the urban forces of North and South gave to the latter the 
strength which came from representing the prestige of the former, 
and were destined to help the Southern urban forces to gain their 
autonomy, to acquire consciousness of their historical leadership 
function in a "concrete" and not merely theoretical and abstract 
manner, suggesting the solutions to give to the great regional 
problems. It was natural that in the South there should be strong 
forces of opposition to unity. The weightiest task in resolving the 
situation in any case fell to the urban forces of the North, which not 

In 1876 the "Left" in parliament formed a Ministry for the first time. 



only had to convince their "brothers" of the South, but had to 
begin [to convince] themselves of this political system as an entity. 
In practical terms, therefore, the question posed itself in the 
existence of a strong centre of political leadership, with which 
strong and popular personalities from the South and the islands 
would necessarily have had to collaborate. The problem of creating 
unity between North and South was closely linked with, and to a 
great extent absorbed into the problem of creating a cohesion and 
solidarity among all the national urban forces.* 

The Northern-Central rural forces posed in their turn a series of 
problems which the urban force of the North had to confront in 
order to establish a normal city-countryside relationship, elimina- 
ting interferences and influences extraneous in origin to the develop- 
ment of the new State. In these rural forces, two currents had to be 
distinguished: the secular, and the clerico- Austrian. The clerical 
force was strongest in Lombardy-Veneto, as well as in Tuscany and 
in a part of the Papal State. The secular force was strongest in 
Piedmont, but had varying influence in the rest of Italy too — not 
only in the Papal Legations (especially Romagna) but also in the 
other regions, even including the Mezzogiorno and the Islands. If 
they had resolved these immediate relations successfully, the 
Northern urban forces would have set a rhythm for all similar 
questions on a national scale. On this whole series of problems, the 
Action Party failed totally. It in fact limited itself to making into 
a question of principle, and into an essential element of its pro- 
gramme, what was simply a question of the political terrain upon 
which it might have been possible to focus, and find a legal solution 
for, such problems : the question of the Constituent Assembly. One 
cannot say that the Moderate Party failed, since its objectives were 
the organic expansion of Piedmont, and soldiers for the Piedmontese 
army rather than insurrections or armies of Garibaldini on too 
large a scale. 

Why did the Action Party not pose the agrarian question 
globally ? That the Moderates would not pose it was obvious : their 
approach to the national question required a bloc of all the right- 
wing forces — including the classes of the great landowners — around 
Piedmont as a State and as an army. Austria's threat to resolve the 
agrarian question in favour of the peasants — a threat carried out 
in Galicia againsi. the Polish nobles in favour of the Ruthenian 

* The line of argument developed above is in fact valid For all three sectors of 
the South : Naples and the mainland, Sicily, Sardinia. 



peasants 85 — not only threw into confusion those in Italy whose 
interests would have been touched, and caused all the oscillations 
of the aristocracy (Milan events of February 1853, and act of 
homage by the most illustrious Milanese families to Franz Josef on 
the very eve of the Belfiore hangings); 86 it also paralysed the Action 
Party itself, which in this field thought like the Moderates, and 
considered as "national" the aristocracy and the landowners, and 
not the millions of peasants. Only after February 1 853 did Mazzini 
begin to make the occasional allusion of a substantially democratic 
kind (see his Correspondence for the period), but he was not capable 
of a decisive radicalisation of his abstract programme. The political 
conduct of the Garibaldini in Sicily in i 860 should be studied — a 
political conduct which was dictated by Crispi: the peasant move- 
ments of insurrection against the barons were crushed pitilessly, 
and the anti-peasant National Guard was created. Typical was the 
repressive expedition of Nino Bixio into the Catania region, where 
the insurrections were most violent. Yet even in G. C. Abba's 
Noterelle there are elements showing that the agrarian question was 
the spring to set the great masses in motion: it is enough to recall 
Abba's conversations with the monk who goes off to meet the 
Garibaldini immediately after the Marsala landing. 87 In certain of 
G. Verga's short stories there are picturesque elements from these 
peasant risings, which the National Guard smothered by means of 
terror and mass shootings. 88 This aspect of the expedition of the 
Thousand has never been studied and analysed. 

The failure to pose the agrarian question led to the near impossi- 
bility of resolving the problem of clericalism and the anti-unitarian 

86 In 1845 the nobles and bourgeois of Galicia rose against the Austrians; the 
latter put down the uprising by mobilising the Ruthenian peasants of the region, 
promising them land in order to gain their support. 

86 For the Milan insurrection of February 1853, see note 52 on p. 82. Later 
in the same year the Austrians hanged a number of Mazzini's followers in the 
valley of Belfiore, near Verona. 

87 In Giuseppe Abba's Noterelle di uno dei Mille, the author recounts how a 
monk came to meet the Garibaldini and informed them eloquently of the 
peasantry's thirst for land. 

88 Notably in the story Liberia, an account of a massacre of local notables by 
a village population excited by the idea that the Garibaldini had brought them 
freedom and equality. After the massacre, the peasants find that they can't get on 
without the "gentlemen" — a characteristic motif of Verga's fundamentally 
conservative populism — and are then led away to prison in the city, without ever 
understanding what they have done wrong. The story ends with one of the 
prisoners saying as he is sentenced : "Where are you taking me? To gaol ? Why, 
why ? I never got so much as a square yard of land ! Didn't they say that freedom 
had come?" 



attitude of the Pope. 89 In this respect, the Moderates were far more 
audacious than the Action Party: it is true that they did not 
distribute ecclesiastical property among the peasants, but they used 
it to create a new stratum of great and medium landowners tied to 
the new political situation, and did not hesitate to lay hands on 
landed property, even if it was only that of the Orders. The Action 
Party, moreover, was paralysed in its action towards the peasants 
by Mazzini's wish for a religious reform. This not only was of no 
interest to the great rural masses, it on the contrary rendered them 
susceptible to being incited against the new heretics. The example 
of the French Revolution was there to show that the Jacobins, who 
had succeeded in crushing all the right-wing parties up to and 
including the Girondins on the terrain of the agrarian question, 
who had succeeded not merely in preventing a rural coalition 
against Paris but in multiplying their supporters in the provinces, 
were damaged by Robespierre's attempts to instigate a religious 
reform — although such a reform had, in the real historical process, 
an immediate significance and concreteness.* [1934; 1st version 
I929-3 0 ] 


Why the Moderates were bound to gain the upper hand as far as 
the majority of intellectuals were concerned. Gioberti 92 and 
Mazzini. Gioberti offered the intellectuals a philosophy which 
appeared original and at the same time national, such as would 
put Italy at least on the same level as the more advanced nations, 
and give a new dignity to Italian thought. Mazzini, on the other 
hand only offered woolly statements, and philosophical allusions 
which to many intellectuals, especially Neapolitans, must have 

89 i.e. the Pope's refusal to accept the end of his temporal power in the Papal 
States, and his consequent opposition to Italian unity before the Risorgimento, 
and refusal to come to terms with the post Risorgimento Italian state — until the 
Concordat of 1929. 

* It would be necessary to study carefully the real agrarian policy of the Roman 
Republic, 80 and the true character of the repressive mission entrusted by Mazzini 
to Felice Orsini 81 in the Romagna and the Marche: in this period up to 1870 (and 
even afterwards), the term "brigandry" almost always meant the chaotic, turbu- 
lent movement, punctuated by ferocity, of the peasants trying to gain possession 
of the land. 

80 The Roman Republic was proclaimed in January 1849, and Mazzini was 
elected to head the triumvirate which governed it. It fell to the French after a 
three-month siege in June of the same year. 

81 See note 16 on p. 62. 
8a See note 36 on p. 399. 



appeared empty chatter (the Abbe Galiani had taught them to 
ridicule such ways of thinking and reasoning). 93 

Problem of the school: activity on the part of the Moderates 
to introduce the pedagogic principle of monitorial teaching 
(Confalonieri, Capponi, etc.) ; movement of Ferrante Aporti and 
the foundling schools, linked to the problem of pauperism. 94 Among 
the Moderates appeared the only concrete pedagogic movement 
opposed to the "Jesuitical" school; it could not fail to be effective, 
both among the lay, to whom it gave a personality of their own 
within the school, and among the liberalising and anti-Jesuitical 
clergy (ferocious hostility to Ferrante Aporti, etc.; the sheltering 
and education of abandoned children was a clerical monopoly, and 
these initiatives broke the monopoly). Scholastic activities of a 
liberal or liberalising character have great significance for grasping 
the mechanism of the Moderates' hegemony over the intellectuals. 
Scholastic activity, at all its levels, has an enormous importance 
(economic as well) for intellectuals of all degrees. And at that time 
it had an even greater importance than it does today, given the 
narrowness of the social structures and the few roads open to the 
initiative of the petite bourgeoisie. (Today, journalism, the political 
parties, industry, a very extensive State apparatus, etc., have 
broadened the possibilities of employment to an unheard of extent.) 

The hegemony of a directive centre over the intellectuals asserts 
itself by two principal routes: 1. a general conception of life, a 

93 The abbe Galiani (1728-1787) was a Neapolitan economist (opposed to free 
trade and the theories of the physiocrats) and man of letters. Noted as a wit, he 
was typical of the enlightened, rationalist intellectual stratum of Naples which 
was to become the "Jacobins" of the Parthenopean Republic of 1799. 

•* The monitor system was devised by Bell and Lancaster in late eighteenth- 
century England, and Confalonieri (see note 51 on p. 81) made the first attempt to 
introduce it into Italy in 1819-21. 

Gino Capponi (1792-1876), educationalist, historian and politician, was the 
author of Frammento sull'educazione (1841), in which he expressed his scepticism 
about any attempt on the part of teachers to predetermine "from outside" the 
development of the "spiritual activity" of children. This type of Rousseauesque, 
liberal theory of learning is criticised by Gramsci, e.g. Int. p. 115: "it is believed 
that a child's mind is like a ball of string which the teacher helps to unwind. In 
reality each generation educates the new generation, i.e. forms it, and education 
is a struggle against instincts linked to the elementary biological functions, a 
struggle against nature, to dominate it and create the 'contemporary' man of the 

Ferrante Aporti (1 791-1858) was an educationalist, founder of the first infant 
schools in Italy (Cremona 1829, etc.). The ideology behind these schools derived 
from Rousseau and Pestalozzi; the first model for them was Owen's 181 6 infant 
school in Scotland. They were opposed strongly by the Church in Italy, both for 
their liberal ideological connotations and for the challenge they posed to the 
clerical monopoly. 



philosophy (Gioberti), which offers to its adherents an intellectual 
"dignity" providing a principle of differentiation from the old 
ideologies which dominated by coercion, and an element of struggle 
against them; 2. a scholastic programme, an educative principle 
and original pedagogy which interests that fraction of the intel- 
lectuals which is the most homogeneous and the most numerous 
(the teachers, from the primary teachers to the university pro- 
fessors), and gives them an activity of their own in the technical 

The Scholars' congresses which were repeatedly organised in the 
period of the early Risorgimento had a double effect: 1. they 
regrouped the intellectuals of the highest grade, concentrating them 
and multiplying their influence; 2. they obtained a more rapid 
concentration and a more decisive orientation of the intellectuals 
of the lower grades, who normally tend to follow the university 
professors and great scholars, through spirit of caste. 

The study of encyclopaedic and specialised reviews furnishes 
another aspect of the Moderates' hegemony. A party like that of 
the Moderates offered the mass of the intellectuals all the satis- 
factions for their general needs which can be offered by a govern- 
ment (by a governing party) through the State services. After 
1848-49, the Piedmontese State served perfectly as far as this 
function of Italian governing party was concerned; it welcomed the 
exiled intellectuals, and provided a model of what a future unified 
State would do. [1934] 


The function of Piedmont in the Italian Risorgimento is that of a 
"ruling class". In reality, what was involved was not that through- 
out the peninsula there existed nuclei of a homogeneous ruling class 
whose irresistible tendency to unite determined the formation of the 
new Italian national State. These nuclei existed, indubitably, but 
their tendency to unite was extremely problematic; also, more 
importantly, they — each in its own sphere — were not "leading". 95 
The "leader" presupposes the "led", and who was "led" by these 
nuclei ? These nuclei did not wish to "lead" anybody, i.e. they did 
not wish to concord their interests and aspirations with the interests 

** This passage presents insuperable translation difficulties (see note 5 on p. 55). 
Gramsci uses "dirigente" here both in its usual sense of "ruling", and in contra- 
distinction to "dominante" — when we have translated it "leading". Inevitably good 
English has had to some extent to be sacrificed here, in the interests of fidelity to 
Gramsci's original text. 


and aspirations of other groups. They wished to "dominate" and 
not to "lead". Furthermore, they wanted their interests to dominate, 
rather than their persons ; in other words, they wanted a new force, 
independent of every compromise and condition, to become the 
arbiter of the Nation: this force was Piedmont and hence the 
function of the monarchy. Thus Piedmont had a function which 
can, from certain aspects, be compared to that of a party, i.e. of the 
leading personnel of a social group (and in fact people always 
spoke of the "Piedmont party") : with the additional feature that 
it was in fact a State, with an army, a diplomatic service, etc. 

This fact is of the greatest importance for the concept of "passive 
revolution" 96 — the fact, that is, that what was involved was not a 
social group which "led" other groups, but a State which, even 
though it had limitations as a power, "led" the group which should 
have been "leading" and was able to put at the latter's disposal an 
army and a politico-diplomatic strength. One may refer to what 
has been called the function of "Piedmont" in international 
politico-historical language. Serbia before the war posed as the 
"Piedmont" of the Balkans. (Moreover France after 1789 and for 
many years, up to the coup d'etat of Louis Napoleon, was in this 
sense the Piedmont of Europe.) That Serbia did not succeed as 
Piedmont succeeded is due to the fact that after the war there 
occurred a political awakening of the peasantry such as did not 
exist after 1848. If one studies closely what is happening in the 
kingdom of Yugoslavia, one sees that within it the "Serbian" forces 
or those favourable to Serb hegemony are the forces which oppose 
agrarian reform. Both in Croatia and in the other non-Serb regions 
we find that there is an anti-Serb rural intellectual bloc, and that 
the conservative forces are favourable to Serbia. In this case, too, 
there do not exist local "hegemonic" groups — they are under the 
hegemony of Serbia ; meanwhile the subversive forces do not have, 
as a social function, any great importance. Anybody who observes 
Serb affairs superficially might wonder what would have happened 
if so-called brigandage of the kind which occurred round Naples 
and in Sicily from i860 to 1870 had occurred in Yugoslavia after 
191 9. Undoubtedly the phenomenon is the same, but' the social 
weight and political experience of the peasant masses are quite 
different since 191 9 from what they were after 1848. The important 
thingis to analyse more profoundly the significance of a "Piedmont"- 
type function in passive revolutions — i.e. the fact that a State 

»• See note ir on p. 59, and pp. 106-120 below. 



replaces the local social groups in leading a struggle of renewal. It 
is one of the cases in which these groups have the function of 
"domination" without that of "leadership" : dictatorship without 
hegemony. The hegemony will be exercised by a part of the social 
group over the entire group, and not by the latter over other forces 
in order to give power to the movement, radicalise it, etc. on the 
"Jacobin" model. 

Studies aimed at capturing the analogies between the period 
which followed the fall of Napoleon and that which followed the 
war of 19,14-18. The analogies are only seen from two viewpoints: 
territorial division, and the more conspicuous and superficial one 
of the attempt to give a stable legal organisation to international 
relations (Holy Alliance and League of Nations). However, it 
would seem that the most important characteristic to examine is 
the one which has been called that of "passive revolution" — a 
problem whose existence is not manifest, since an external parallel- 
ism with the France of 1 789-1815 is lacking. And yet, everybody 
recognises that the war of 1914-18 represents an historical break, in 
the sense that a whole series of questions which piled up individually 
before 191 4 have precisely formed a "mound", modifying the 
general structure of the previous process. It is enough to think of 
the importance which the trade-union phenomenon has assumed, 
a general term in which various problems and processes of develop- 
ment, of differing importance and significance, are lumped together 
(parliamentarianism, industrial organisation, democracy, liberalism, 
etc.), but which objectively reflects the fact that a new social force 
has been constituted, and has a weight which can no longer be 
ignored, etc. [1933] 


The concept of "passive revolution" 97 must be rigorously derived 
from the two fundamental principles of political science: 1. that no 
social formation disappears as long as the productive forces which 
have developed within it still find room for further forward move- 
ment; 2. that a society does not set itself tasks for whose solution the 
necessary conditions have not already been incubated, etc. 98 It 

87 See note 11 on p. 59; also introduction to Notes on Italian History, pp. 44-7. 

88 These principles, here quoted from memory by Gramsci, are taken from 
Marx's Preface to The Critique of Political Economy : "No social order ever perishes 
before all the productive forces for which there is room in it have developed ; and 
new, higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions 
of their existence have matured in the womb of the old society itself. Therefore 
mankind always sets itself only such tasks as it can solve . . ." 


goes without saying that these principles must first be developed 
critically in all their implications, and purged of every residue of 
mechanicism and fatalism. They must therefore be referred back 
to the description of the three fundamental moments into which a 
"situation" or an equilibrium of forces can be distinguished, with 
the greatest possible stress on the second moment (equilibrium of 
political forces), and especially on the third moment (politico- 
military equilibrium). 99 

It may be observed that Pisacane, in his Essays, is concerned 
precisely with this third moment: unlike Mazzini, he understands 
all the importance of the presence in Italy of a war-hardened 
Austrian army, always ready to intervene at any point on the 
peninsula, and with moreover behind it all the military strength 
of the Habsburg Empire — an ever-ready matrix of new armies of 
reinforcement. Another historical element to be recalled is the 
development of Christianity in the bosom of the Roman Empire. 
Also the current phenomenon of Gandhism in India, and Tolstoy's 
theory of non-resistance to evil, both of which have so much in 
common with the first phase of Christianity (before the Edict of 
Milan) . 10 ° Gandhism and Tolstoyism are naive theorisations of the 
"passive revolution" with religious overtones. Certain so-called 
"liquidationist" 101 movements and the reactions they provoked 

" For the three "moments" to which Gramsci refers, see "Analysis of Situations", 
on pp. 175 185 below. 

1 °° The Edict whereby Constantine, in a.d. 313, recognised Christianity as the 
official religion of the Empire. 

101 This could be a reference to the liquidationist tendency in the Russian 
Social-Democratic Party during 1908 and in the following years, condemned at 
the Fifth Party Congress in December 1908 and the subject of numerous attacks 
by Lenin who identified its essence as the desire for the Party to abandon illegal 
activity. However, it seems likely that the reference is to more recent events 
within the PCI. Between 1922 and 1924, the main reason forGramsci's continued 
support for Bordiga was his fear of the "liquidationism" of Tasca and the Right, 
i.e. their readiness to accept an interpretation of the United Front policy (an 
interpretation which was incidentally also that of the Comintern) which would 
lead to fusion with the PSI and the effective "liquidation" of the PCI as formed 
at Livorno. See, for example, exchange of letters between Gramsci and Piero 
Sraffa, in Ordine Nwvo, April 1924. From 1925 on, the Right was incorporated 
into the leadership, and after Gramsci's arrest the party was in effect led by 
Togliatti and Tasca together. After the Comintern's left turn in 1929, Tasca — 
who was close to Bukharin, Humbert-Droz, etc. was accused like them of 
"liquidationism", in the "right" period of 1927 28. Gramsci as always is concerned 
to establish a dialectical position, rejecting both the "liquidationists" who make 
passive revolution into a programme and abandon the revolutionary perspective, 
and also those who react against this by a mechanical, and voluntarist, advocacy 
of frontal attack when this can only lead to defeat. In fact he is faithf ul to his 
interpretation of the "dual perspective" of the Fifth World Congress, against 
both the "right" period of 1927 28 and the "left" period which followed it. 



should also be recalled, in connection with the tempo and form of 
certain situations (especially of the third moment). The point of 
departure for the study will be Vincenzo Cuoco's work on the 
subject; but it is obvious that Cuoco's phrase for the Neapolitan 
revolution of 1799 can be no more than a cue, since the concept 
has been completely modified and enriched. 

Can the concept of "passive revolution", in the sense attributed 
by Vincenzo Cuoco to the first period of the Italian Risorgimento, 
be related to the concept of "war of position" in contrast to war of 
manoeuvre? 102 In other words, did these concepts have a meaning 
after the French Revolution, and can the twin figures of Proudhon 
and Gioberti be explained in terms of the panic created by the 
Terror of 1793, as Sorellism can be in terms of the panic following 
the Paris massacres of 187 1 ? In other words, does there exist an 
absolute identity between war of position and passive revolution? 
Or at least does there exist, or can there be conceived, an entire 
historical period in which the two concepts must be considered 
identical — until the point at which the war of position once again 
becomes a war of manoeuvre ? 

The "restorations" need to be judged "dynamically", as a "ruse 
of providence" in Vico's sense. 103 One problem is the following: in 
the struggle Cavour-Mazzini, in which Cavour is the exponent of 
the passive revolution/ war of position and Mazzini of popular 
initiative/ war of manoeuvre, are not both of them indispensable to 
precisely the same extent ? Yet it has to be taken into account that, 
whereas Cavour was aware of his role (at least up to a certain point) 
in as much as he understood the role of Mazzini, the latter does not 
seem to have been aware either of his own or of Cavour's. If, on the 
contrary, Mazzini had possessed such awareness — in other words, 
if he had been a realistic politician and not a visionary apostle (i.e. 
if he had not been Mazzini) — then the equilibrium which resulted 
from the convergence of the two men's activities would have been 
different, would have been more favourable to Mazzinianism. In 
other words, the Italian State would have been constituted on a less 
retrograde and more modern basis. And since similar situations 

102 See pp. 229-39 below, and introduction_to "State and Civil Society", pp. 
206 9. 

103 The actual phrase is not Vico's it is perhaps an echo of Hegel's "ruse of 
reason" — but the idea is. Vico's theory of divine providence held that men 
themselves constructed a world according to a divine plan of which they were not 
aware. "For out of the passions of men each bent on his private advantage, for the 
sake of which they would live like wild beasts in the wilderness, it [providence] 
has made the civil institutions by which they may live in human society." Vico, 
The New Science, Cornell, 1968, p. 62. 


almost always arise in every historical development, one should see 
if it is not possible to draw from this some general principle of 
political science and art. One may apply to the concept of passive 
revolution (documenting it from the Italian Risorgimento) the 
interpretative criterion of molecular changes which in fact pro- 
gressively modify the pre-existing composition of forces, and hence 
become the matrix of new changes. Thus, in the Italian Risorgi- 
mento, it has been seen how the composition of the moderate forces 
was progressively modified by the passing over to Cavourism (after 
1848) of ever new elements of the Action Party, so that on the one 
hand neo-Guelphism 104 was liquidated, and on the other the 
Mazzinian movement was impoverished (Garibaldi's oscillations, 
etc. also belong to this process). This element is therefore the initial 
phase of the phenomenon which is later called "transformism", 108 
and whose importance as a form of historical development has not 
as yet, it seems, been adequately emphasised. 

Pursue further the notion that, while Cavour was aware of his 
role in as much as he was critically aware of that of Mazzini, the 
latter, as a consequence of his scanty or non-existent awareness of 
Cavour's role, had in fact little awareness of his own either. Hence 
his vacillations (for example at Milan in the period following the 
Five Days, 106 and on other occasions) and his ill-timed initiatives — 
which therefore became factors only benefiting the policies of 
Piedmont. This is an exemplification of the theoretical problem, 
posed in the Poverty of Philosophy, of how the dialectic must be 
understood. 107 Neither Proudhon nor Mazzini understood the 
necessity for each member of a dialectical opposition to seek to be 
itself totally and throw into the struggle all the political and moral 
"resources" it possesses, since only in that way can it achieve a 
genuine dialectical "transcendence" of its opponent. The Tetort will 
be made that this was not understood by Gioberti or the theoreti- 
cians of the passive revolution or "revolution/restoration"* either, 
but in fact their case is a different one. Their theoretical "incompre- 

io« See note 9 on p. 58. 

106 See note 8 on p. 58. 

108 The insurrection in May 1848 against the Austrians. 

107 See especially chapter II. 

* The political literature produced on '48 by Marxist scholars will have to 
be looked at, but there does not appear to be much to hope for in this direction. 
What happened in Italy, for instance, was only studied with the help of Bolton 
King's books, etc. 108 

108 Bolton King (1860-1937) was an English historian, author of Life of Mazzini 
(1902), A History of Italian Unity (1899; Italian translation 1909 10); Fascism in 
Italy (1931). 



hension" expressed in practice the necessity for the "thesis" to 
achieve its full development, up to the point where it would even 
succeed in incorporating a part of the antithesis itself — in order, 
that is, not to allow itself to be "transcended" in the dialectical 
opposition. The thesis alone in fact develops to the full its potential 
for struggle, up to the point where it absorbs even the so-called 
representatives of the antithesis: it is precisely in this that the 
passive revolution or revolution/restoration consists. The problem 
of the political struggle's transition from a "war of manoeuvre" to 
a "war of position" certainly needs to be considered at this juncture. 
In Europe this transition took place after 1848, and was not under- 
stood by Mazzini and his followers, as it was on the contrary by 
certain others: the same transition took place after 1871, etc. At the 
time, the question was hard to understand for men like Mazzini, 
in view of the fact that military wars had not yet furnished the 
model — and indeed military theory was developing in the direction 
of war of movement. One will have to see whether there are any 
relevant allusions in Pisacane, who was the military theoretician of 

However, the main reason for studying Pisacane is that he was 
the only one who tried to give the Action Party a substantive and 
not merely formal content — as an antithesis transcending traditional 
positions. Nor can it be said that, for such an historical outcome to 
be achieved, a popular armed insurrection was an imperative 
necessity — as Mazzini believed to the point of obsession (i.e. not 
realistically, but with the fervour of a missionary). The popular 
intervention which was not possible in the concentrated and 
instantaneous form of an insurrection, did not take place even in 
the "diffused" and capillary form of indirect pressure — though the 
latter would have been possible, and perhaps was in fact the 
indispensable premiss for the former. The concentrated or instanta- 
neous form was rendered impossible by the military technique of 
the time — but only partially so; in other words the impossibility 
existed in so far as that concentrated and instantaneous form was 
not preceded by long ideological and political preparation, organi- 
cally devised in advance to reawaken popular passions and enable 
them to be concentrated and brought simultaneously to detonation 

After 1848, only the Moderates made a critique of the methods 
which had led up to the debacle. (Indeed the entire Moderate 
movement renewed itself: neo-Guelphism was liquidated, new men 
occupied the top positions of leadership.) No self-criticism, by 



contrast, on the part of the Mazzinians — or rather only a self- 
criticism by liquidation, in the sense that many elements abandoned 
Mazzini and came to form the left wing of the Piedmontese party. 
The only "orthodox" attempt — i.e. from within — was Pisacane's 
essays; but these never became the platform for a new organic 
policy, notwithstanding the fact that Mazzini himself recognised 
that Pisacane had a "strategic conception" of the Italian national 

Other aspects of the relation "passive revolution/war of position" 
in the Italian Risorgimento can be studied too. The most important 
of these are, on the one hand what can be called the "personnel" 
aspect, and on the other that of the "revolutionary levy". The 
"personnel" aspect can precisely be compared to what occurred in 
the World War, in the relationship on the one hand between career 
officers and those called up from the reserves, and on the other 
between conscripts and volunteers/commandos. The career officers 
corresponded in the Risorgimento to the regular, organic, tradi- 
tional, etc. political parties, which at the moment of action (1848) 
revealed themselves inept or almost so, and which in 1848-49 were 
overtaken by the popular-Mazzinian-democratic tidal wave. This 
tidal wave was chaotic, formless, "extempore" so to speak, but it 
nonetheless, under an improvised leadership (or nearly so — at any 
rate not one formed beforehand as was the case with the Moderate 
party), obtained successes which were indubitably greater than 
those obtained by the Moderates : the Roman Republic and Venice 
showed a very notable strength of resistance. 108 In the period 
after '48 the relation between the two forces — the regular and the 
"charismatic" — became organised around Cavour and Garibaldi 
and produced the greatest results (although these results were later 
confiscated by Cavour). 

This "personnel" aspect is related to that of the "levy". It should 
be observed that the technical difficulty on which Mazzini's 
initiatives always came to grief was precisely that of the "revolu- 
tionary levy". It would be interesting, from this point of view, to 
study Ramorino's attempt to invade Savoy, together with the 
attempts of the Bandiera brothers, Pisacane, etc., 110 and to compare 
them with the situation which faced Mazzini in '48 at Milan and 

101 The Roman Republic under Garibaldi, and Venice under Manin, held out 
for several months against the Austrians in 1849 despite the demoralisation 
following the defeat of the Piedmontese at Novara. 

110 Ramorino tried to invade Savoy in 1834; the Bandiera brothers landed in 
Calabria in 1844; Pisacane (see note 17 on p. 62) committed suicide after the 
failure of his landing at Sapri in 1857. 



in '49 in Rome — situations which he did not have the capacity to 
organise. 111 These attempts of a few individuals could not fail to be 
nipped in the bud; it would have been a miracle indeed if the 
reactionary forces, concentrated and able to operate freely (i.e. 
unopposed by any broad movement of the population), had not 
crushed initiatives of the Ramorino, Pisacane, Bandiera type — 
even if these had been better prepared than in fact they were. In 
the second period (1859-60), the "revolutionary levy" (which is 
what Garibaldi's Thousand in fact was) was made possible firstly 
by the fact that Garibaldi grafted himself on to the Piedmontese 
national forces, and secondly by the fact that the English fleet 
effectively protected the Marsala landing and the capture of 
Palermo, and neutralised the Bourbon fleet. In Milan after the Five 
Days and in republican Rome, Mazzini had opportunities to set up 
recruitment centres for an organic levy, but he had no intention of 
doing so. This was the source of his conflict with Garibaldi in Rome, 
and the reason for his ineffectiveness in Milan compared with 
Cattaneo and the Milanese democratic group. 112 

In any case, although the course of events in the Risorgimento 
revealed the enormous importance of the "demagogic" mass move- 
ment, with its leaders thrown up by chance, improvised, etc., it was 
nevertheless in actual fact taken over by the traditional organic 
forces — in other words, by the parties of long standing, with 
rationally-formed leaders, etc. And identical results occurred in all 
similar political events. (Examples of this are the preponderance of 
the Orleanists over the radical-democratic popular forces in France 
in 1830; and, ultimately, the French Revolution of 1789 too — in 
which Napoleon represents in the last analysis the triumph of the 
organic bourgeois forces over the Jacobin petit-bourgeois forces.) 

111 In 1848, after the successful "Five Days" insurrection in Milan and the 
Austrian withdrawal to their "quadrilateral" of fortified towns, Mazzini arrived 
in Milan and founded Italia del Popolo. With this organ, he attempted to combat 
the notion of a fusion of Piedmont and Lombardy, in favour of his own aim of a 
united, republican Italy. He failed to gain popular support for his views. 

In 1849 (see note 90 on p. 102) Mazzini headed the Roman Republic. His policy 
of entrusting the city's defences to the regular army rather than attempting to 
mobilise the entire population was symbolised by his appointment of Rosselli, 
a regular army general, rather than Garibaldi to command the defence forces. 

112 Carlo Cattaneo (1801 69), sometimes called the first Italian positivist, 
edited the influential // Politecnico. During the Five Days of Milan (see previous 
note) he headed the Council of War; at this time he was favourable to the policy 
of the Piedmontese monarchy. However, he came to oppose the latter fiercely, 
feeling that the Italian bourgeois revolution was being sacrificed to Piedmontese 
ambitions. In 1867 he became a deputy in the Italian parliament, but refused to 
take the oath of loyalty to the throne of Savoy. 



Similarly in the World War the victory of the old career officers 
over the reservists, etc. In any case, the absence among the radical- 
popular forces of any awareness of the role of the other side prevented 
them from being fully aware of their own role either; hence from 
weighing in the final balance of forces in proportion to their 
effective power of intervention; and hence from determining a 
more advanced result, on more progressive and modern lines. 

Still in connection with the concept of "passive revolution" or 
"revolution/restoration" in the Italian Risorgimento, it should be 
noted that it is necessary to pose with great precision the problem 
which in certain historiographical tendencies is called that of the 
relations between the objective conditions and the subjective condi- 
tions of an historical event. It seems obvious that the so-called 
subjective conditions can never be missing when the objective 
conditions exist, in as much as the distinction involved is simply one 
of a didactic character. Consequently it is on the size and concentra- 
tion of subjective forces that discussion can bear, and hence on the 
dialectical relation between conflicting subjective forces. 

It is necessary to avoid posing the problem in "intellectualistic" 
rather than historico-political terms. Naturally it is not disputed 
that intellectual "clairvoyance" of the terms of the struggle is 
indispensable. But this clairvoyance is a political value only in as 
much as it becomes disseminated passion, and in as much as it is 
the premiss for a strong will. In many recent works on the Risorgi- 
mento, it has been "revealed" that there existed individuals who saw 
everything clearly (recall Piero Gobetti's emphasis on Ornato's 113 
significance). But these "revelations" are self-destroying, precisely 
because they are revelations; they demonstrate that what was 
involved was nothing more than personal reflections which today 
represent a form of "hindsight". In fact, they never effected a 
juncture with actual reality, never became a general and operative 
national-popular consciousness. Out of the Action Party and the 
Moderates, which represented the real "subjective forces" of the 
Risorgimento ? Without a shadow of doubt it was the Moderates, 
precisely because they were also aware of the role of the Action 
Party: thanks to this awareness, their "subjectivity" was of a 
superior and more decisive quality. In Victor Emmanuel's crude, 
sergeant-major's expression "we've got the Action Party in our 

113 Luigi Ornato ( 1 7 87-1 842), an obscure Piedmontese thinker, left no published 
work except a vulgarisation of Marcus Aurelius but enjoyed a high reputation, 
e.g. with Gioberti. Gobetti saluted him in the Manifesto for the first number of 
La Rivoluzione Liberate as the "philosopher of the risings of 1821", etc. 


pocket" there is more historico-political sense than in all Mazzini. 


The thesis of the "passive revolution" as an interpretation of the 
Risorgimento period, and of every epoch characterised by complex 
historical upheavals. Utility and dangers of this thesis. Danger of 
historical defeatism, i.e. of indifferentism, since the whole way of 
posing the question may induce a belief in some kind of fatalism, 
etc. Yet the conception remains a dialectical one — in other words, 
presupposes, indeed postulates as necessary, a vigorous antithesis 
which can present intransigently all its potentialities for develop- 
ment. Hence theory of the "passive revolution" not as a programme, 
as it was for the Italian liberals of the Risorgimento, but as a 
criterion of interpretation, in the absence of other active elements 
to a dominant extent. (Hence struggle against the political morphin- 
ism which exudes from Croce and from his historicism.) (It would 
seem that the theory of the passive revolution is a necessary critical 
corollary to the Introduction to the Critique of Political Economy.) 
Revision of certain sectarian ideas on the theory of the party, 
theories which precisely represent a form of fatalism of a "divine 
right" type. Development of the concepts of mass party and small 
elite party, and mediation between the two. (Theoretical and 
practical mediation: is it theoretically possible for there to exist a 
group, relatively small but still of significant size, let us say several 
thousand strong, that is socially and ideologically homogeneous, 
without its very existence demonstrating a widespread state of 
affairs and corresponding state of mind which only mechanical, 
external and hence transitory causes prevent from being expressed ?) 


Historical relationship between the modem French state created by 
the Revolution and the other modern states of continental Europe. 
The comparison is vitally important — provided that it is not made 
on the basis of abstract sociological schemas. It should be based on 
the study of four elements: 1. revolutionary explosion in France 

i.e. Staria d'ltalia dal 1871 al 1315, and Storia d'Europa nel secolo decimonono. 



with radical and violent transformation of social and political 
relations; 2. European opposition to the French Revolution and to 
any extension of it along class lines; 3. war between France, under 
the Republic and Napoleon, and the rest of Europe — initially, in 
order to avoid being stifled at birth, and subsequently with the aim 
of establishing a permanent French hegemony tending towards the 
creation of a universal empire; 4. national revolts against French 
hegemony, and birth of the modern European states by successive 
small waves of reform rather than by revolutionary explosions like 
the original French one. The "successive waves" were made up of a 
combination of social struggles, interventions from above of the 
enlightened monarchy type, and national wars — with the two latter 
phenomena predominating. The period of the "Restoration" is the 
richest in developments of this kind; restoration becomes the first 
policy whereby social struggles find sufficiently elastic frameworks 
to allow the bourgeoisie to gain power without dramatic upheavals, 
without the French machinery of terror. The old feudal classes are 
demoted from their dominant position to a "governing" one, but 
are not eliminated, nor is there any attempt to liquidate them as an 
organic whole; instead of a class they become a "caste" with 
specific cultural and psychological characteristics, but no longer 
with predominant economic functions. Can this "model" for the 
creation of the modern states be repeated in other conditions? Can 
this be excluded absolutely, or could we say that at least partially 
there can be similar developments in the form of the appearance of 
planned economies ? 115 Can it be excluded for all states, or only for 
the large ones ? The question is of the highest importance, because 
the France-Europe model has created a mentality which is no less 
significant for being "ashamed of itself " or for being an "instrument 
of government". An important question related to the foregoing is 
that of the function which the intellectuals thought they fulfilled 
in this long, submerged process of political and social fragmentation 
of the restoration. Classical German philosophy was the philosophy 
of this period, and animated the liberal national movements from 
1848 to 1870. Here too is the place to recall the Hegelian parallel 
(carried over into the philosophy of praxis) between French practice 
and German speculation. 116 In reality the parallel can be extended: 
what is practice for the fundamental class becomes "rationality" 

116 See "Americanism and Fordism" on pp. 277-318, which opens with a 
passage which makes clear what Gramsci means by "planned economies". Sec 
too "The history of Europe seen as 'passive revolution' " on pp. 11B-20. 

116 See note 46 on p. 78. 



and speculation for its intellectuals (it is on the basis of these 
historical relations that all modern philosophical idealism is to be 

The conception of the State according to the productive function 
of the social classes cannot be applied mechanically to the interpre- 
tation of Italian and European history from the French revolution 
throughout the nineteenth century. Although it is certain that for 
the fundamental productive classes (capitalist bourgeoisie and 
modern proletariat) the State is only conceivable as the concrete 
form of a specific economic world, of a specific system of production, 
this does not mean that the relationship of means to end can be 
easily determined or takes the form of a simple schema, apparent 
at first sight. It is true that conquest of power and achievement of 
a new productive world are inseparable, and that propaganda for 
one of them is also propaganda for the other, and that in reality it 
is solely in this coincidence that the unity of the dominant class — at 
once economic and political — resides. 

But the complex problem arises of the relation of internal forces 
in the country in question, of the relation of international forces, of 
the country's geo-political position. In reality, the drive towards 
revolutionary renewal may be initiated by the pressing needs of a 
given country, in given circumstances, and you get the revolu- 
tionary explosion in France, victorious internationally as well. But 
the drive for renewal may be caused by the combination of pro- 
gressive forces which in themselves are scanty and inadequate 
(though with immense potential, since they represent their country's 
future) with an international situation favourable to their expansion 
and victory. Raffaele Ciasca's book on "The Origins of the National 
Programme", while it proved that there existed in Italy the same 
pressing problems as existed in ancien regime France, and a social 
force which interpreted and represented these problems precisely in 
the French sense, also proved that these forces were weak and the 
problems remained at the level of "petty politics". 117 In any case, 
one can see how, when the impetus of progress is not tightly linked 
to a vast local economic development which is artificially limited 
and repressed, but is instead the reflection of international develop- 
ments which transmit their ideological currents to the periphery — 
currents born on the basis of the productive development of the 

117 Ciasca's book had been reviewed by Mondolfo in an article on interpreta- 
tions of the Risorgimento written in 19 17, which Gramsci had republished in part 
in II Grido del Popolo, 1 6 May 1 9 1 8. The social force referred to is clearly the PSI 
and the socialist forces in general. 


II 7 

more advanced countries — then the group which is the bearer of 
the new ideas is not the economic group but the intellectual 
stratum, and the conception of the State advocated by them 
changes aspect; it is conceived of as something in itself, as a rational 
absolute. The problem can be formulated as follows: since the State 
is the concrete form of a productive world and since the intellectuals 
are the social element from which the governing personnel is 
drawn, the intellectual who is not firmly anchored to a strong 
economic group will tend to present the State as an absolute; in 
this way the function of the intellectuals is itself conceived of as 
absolute and pre-eminent, and their historical existence and dignity 
are abstractly rationalised. This motive is fundamental for an 
historical understanding of modern philosophical idealism, and is 
connected with the mode of formation of the modern States of 
continental Europe as "reaction — national transcendence" of the 
French Revolution (a motive which is essential for understanding 
the concepts of "passive revolution" and "revolution/restoration", 
and for grasping the importance of the Hegelian comparison 
between the principles of Jacobinism and classical German philo- 
sophy). The observation can be made that certain traditional criteria 
for historical and cultural evaluation of the Risorgimento period 
must be modified, and in some cases inverted: 1. the Italian currents 
which are "branded" for their French rationalism and abstract 
illuminism are perhaps those which in fact most closely adhere to 
Italian reality, in so far as in reality they conceive of the State as 
the concrete form of an Italian economic development in progress; 
a similar content requires a similar political form; 2. the real 
"Jacobins" (in the pejorative sense which the term has taken on for 
certain historiographical currents) are the currents which appear 
most indigenous in that they seem to develop an Italian tradition. 11 8 
But in reality this current is "Italian" only because culture for 
many centuries was the only Italian "national" manifestation; this 
is simply a verbal illusion. Where was the basis for this Italian 
culture? It was not in Italy; this "Italian" culture is the continua- 
tion of the mediaeval cosmopolitanism linked to the tradition of the 
Empire and the Church. Universal concepts with "geographical" 
seats in Italy. The Italian intellectuals were functionally a cosmo- 

118 These currents are, on the surface of it, the republicans, Mazzinians, etc. 
(influenced by the ideas of the French Revolution) on the one hand, and the 
Moderates on the other. However, it is hard not to read into this an indirect 
comment on the contemporary socialist/communist Left and nationalist/fascist 
Right respectively. See too 'The Political Party", pp. 147-57. 



politan cultural concentration; they absorbed and developed 
theoretically the reflections of the most solid and indigenous 
contemporary Italian life. This function can be seen in Machiavelli 
too, though Machiavelli attempted to turn it to national ends 
(without success and without any appreciable result). The Prince, 
in fact, was a development of Spanish, French and English experi- 
ence during the travail of national unification — which in Italy did 
not command sufficient forces, or even arouse much interest. Since 
the representatives of the traditional current really wish to apply to 
Italy intellectual and rational schemas, worked out in Italy it is 
true, but on the basis of anachronistic experiences rather than 
immediate national needs, it is they who are the Jacobins in the 
pejorative sense . . . [1932] 


Is it possible to write a history of Europe in the nineteenth century 
without an organic treatment of the French Revolution and the 
Napoleonic Wars ? And is it possible to write a history of Italy in 
modern times without the struggles of the Risorgimento ? In both 
cases Croce, for extrinsic and tendentious reasons, excludes the 
moment of struggle in which the structure is formed and modified, 
and placidly takes as history the moment of cultural or ethical- 
political expansion. Does the conception of the "passive revolution" 
have a "present" significance? Are we in a period of "restoration- 
revolution" to be permanently consolidated, to be organised 
ideologically, to be exalted lyrically? Does Italy have the same 
relation vis-d-vis the USSR that the Germany (and Europe) of Kant 
and Hegel had vis-d-vis the France of Robespierre and Napoleon? 

Paradigms of ethical-political history. The History of Europe in the 
Nineteenth Century seems to be the work of ethical-political history 
destined to become the paradigm of Crocean historiography offered 
to European culture. However, his other studies must be taken into 
account too: History of the Kingdom of Naples; History of Italy from 
1 87 1 to igi5\ The Neapolitan Revolution of ij gg; and History of the 
Baroque Era in Italy. The most tendentious and revealing, however, 
are the History of Europe and the History of Italy. With respect to 
these two works, the questions at once arise: is it possible to write 
(conceive of) a history of Europe in the nineteenth century without 
an organic treatment of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic 
Wars? And is it possible to write a history of Italy in modern times 
without a treatment of the struggles of the Risorgimento ? In other 



words: is it fortuitous, or is it for a tendentious motive, that Croce 
begins his narratives from 1815 and 18 71 ? I.e. that he excludes the 
moment of struggle; the moment in which the conflicting forces are 
formed, are assembled and take up their positions; the moment in 
which one ethical-political system dissolves and another is formed 
by fire and by steel; the moment in which one system of social 
relations disintegrates and falls and another arises and asserts itself? 
Is it fortuitous or not that he placidly takes as history the moment 
of cultural or ethical-political expansion ? One can say, therefore, 
that the book on the History of Europe is nothing but a fragment of 
history, the "passive" aspect of the great revolution which started 
in France in 1 789 and which spilled over into the rest of Europe 
with the republican and Napoleonic armies — giving the old regimes 
a powerful shove, and resulting not in their immediate collapse as 
in France but in the "reformist" corrosion of them which lasted up 
to 1870. 

The problem arises of whether this Crocean construction, in its 
tendentious nature, does not have a contemporary and immediate 
reference. Whether it does not aim to create an ideological move- 
ment corresponding to that of the period with which Croce is 
dealing, i.e. the period of restoration-revolution, in which the 
demands which in France found a Jacobin-Napoleonic expression 
were satisfied by small doses, legally, in a reformist manner — in 
such a way that it was possible to preserve the political and economic 
position of the old feudal classes, to avoid agrarian reform, and, 
especially, to avoid the popular masses going through a period of 
political experience such as occurred in France in the years of 
Jacobinism, in 1831, and in 1848. But, in present conditions, is it 
not precisely the fascist movement which in fact corresponds to the 
movement of moderate and conservative liberalism in the last 
century ? 

Perhaps it is not without significance that, in the first years of its 
development, fascism claimed a continuity with the tradition of 
the old "historic" Right. It might be one of the numerous para- 
doxical aspects of history (a ruse of nature, to put it in Vico's 
language) that Croce, with his own particular preoccupations, 
should in effect have contributed to a reinforcement of fascism — 
furnishing it indirectly with an intellectual justification, after having 
contributed to purging it of various secondary characteristics, of a 
superficially romantic type but nevertheless irritating to his classical 
serenity modelled on Goethe. The ideological hypothesis could be 
presented in the following terms : that there is a passive revolution 



involved in the fact that — through the legislative intervention of the 
State, and by means of the corporative organisation — relatively 
far-reaching modifications are being introduced into the country's 
economic structure in order to accentuate the "plan of production" 
element; in other words, that socialisation and co-operation in the 
sphere of production are being increased, without however touching 
(or at least not going beyond the regulation and control of) indi- 
vidual and group appropriation of profit. In the concrete frame- 
work of Italian social relations, this could be the only solution 
whereby to develop the productive forces of industry under the 
direction of the traditional ruling classes, in competition with the 
more advanced industrial formations of countries which monopo- 
lise raw materials and have accumulated massive capital sums. 

Whether or not such a schema could be put into practice, and to 
what extent, is only of relative importance. What is important from 
the political and ideological point of view is that it is capable of 
creating — and indeed does create — a period of expectation and 
hope, especially in certain Italian social groups such as the great 
mass of urban and rural petit bourgeois. It thus reinforces the 
hegemonic system and the forces of military and civil coercion at 
the disposal of the traditional ruling classes. 

This ideology thus serves as an element of a "war of position" in 
the international economic field (free competition and free exchange 
here corresponding to the war of movement), just as "passive 
revolution" does in the political field. In Europe from 1789 to 1870 
there was a (political) war of movement in the French Revolution 
and a long war of position from 1815 to 1870. In the present epoch, 
the war of movement took place politically from March igi7 to 
March 1921; this was followed by a war of position whose repre- 
sentative — both practical (for Italy) and ideological (for Europe) — 
is fascism. [1935] 






The concept of "Jacobinism" is perhaps that which establishes most 
clearly and most succinctly the unifying thread which links all of 
Gramsci's prison writing on history and on politics. Machiavelli 
was a "precocious Jacobin"; Mazzini and his followers failed to be 
the "Jacobins!' of the Risorgimento; the "Modern Prince" — i.e. 
the communist party — must organise and express a national- 
popular collective will, in other words, must be a "Jacobin" force, 
binding the peasants beneath the hegemony of the proletariat, and 
rejecting all forms of economism, syndicalism, spontaneism. What 
has characterised Italian history hitherto is the fact that "an 
effective Jacobin force was always missing". Now the question is 
posed of whether the urban proletariat has "attained an adequate 
development in the field of industrial production and a certain 
level of historico-political culture". Its historical task can only be 
accomplished if "the great mass of peasant farmers bursts simul- 
taneously into political life". The writings on the communist party 
grouped in this section aim to define what type of party could play 
the role of the "Modern Prince". 

In an earlier version of the passage here entitled "The Political 
Party", Gramsci gave what he wrote the heading "Marx and 
Machiavelli", and began: "This theme can be developed in a 
two-fold study: a study of the real relations between the two as 
theorists of militant politics, of action; and a book which would 
derive from Marxist doctrines an articulated system of contem- 
porary politics of the 'Prince' type. The theme would be the political 
party, in its relations with the classes and the State: not the party 
as a sociological category, but the party which seeks to found the 
State." Why did Gramsci attach such importance to Machiavelli? 
Because "Machiavelli was the representative in Italy of the recog- 
nition that the Renaissance could not be a real one without the 
foundation of a national State"; "Machiavelli's political thought 
was a reaction to the Renaissance [in the narrow sense] ; it was an 
invocation of the political and national necessity of drawing closer 
to the people as the absolute monarchies of France and Spain had 
done . . ." Machiavelli did not merely abstractly desire the national 
unification of Italy; he had a programme, and it was one which 
revealed his "precocious Jacobinism". He intended through the 



institution of a citizen militia to bring the great mass of peasant 
farmers into political life. For Gramsci, he was not simply a precursor 
of the '-historical" Jacobins, but a precursor of the "modern" 
Jacobins — i.e. the communists — in their task of forging the worker- 
peasant alliance. In his identification of the communists with 
Jacobinism, Gramsci was developing and expanding a theme 
already touched on by Lenin — who wrote in July 1917 that 
" 'Jacobinism' in Europe or on the boundary line between Europe 
and Asia in the twentieth century would be the rule of the revolu- 
tionary class, of the proletariat, which, supported by the peasant 
poor and taking advantage of the existing material basis for 
advancing to socialism, could not only provide all the great, 
ineradicable, unforgettable things provided by the Jacobins in the 
eighteenth century, but bring about a lasting world-wide victory 
for the working people". 

The notes grouped in this section approach the problem of the 
"The Modern Prince" from many angles; they analyse the nature of 
a political party as such; the relations between party, class and 
State; the ideological dangers of economism and spontaneism, 
against which it must struggle; the type of non-bureaucratic 
internal regime which is necessary if it is to be effective. But if 
there is one passage which perhaps more than any other en- 
capsulates Gramsci's conception of the revolutionary party, it is 
the opening sentences of the section entitled "Prediction and Per- 
spective" in which he evokes Machiavelli's Centaur as a symbol 
of the "dual perspective" which must characterise the revolutionary 
party (and State). The party must hold together in a dialectical 
unity the two levels "of force and of consent, authority and 
hegemony, violence and civilisation, of agitation and of propaganda, 
of tactics and of strategy". Perhaps one can see here an attempt to 
theorise the struggle Gramsci had conducted in the PCI against 
Bordiga on the one hand and Tasca on the other. Bordiga in this 
schema would represent an undialectical isolation of the moment of 
force, domination, etc., Tasca a parallel isolation of the moment of 
consent, hegemony; the short-term and the long-term perspective 
respectively, mechanically and incorrectly divorced from the other. 
Gramsci sought to theorise the unity of the two perspectives. 



The basic thing about The Prince is that it is not a systematic treat- 
ment, but a "live" work, in which political ideology and political 
science are fused in the dramatic form of a "myth". Before Mach- 
iavelli, political science had taken the form either of the Utopia 
or of the scholarly treatise. Machiavelli, combining the two, gave 
imaginative and artistic form to his conception by embodying the 
doctrinal, rational element in the person of a condottiere, 1 who 
represents plastically and "anthropomorphically" the symbol of the 
"collective will". In order to represent the process whereby a given 
collective will, directed towards a given political objective, is 
formed, Machiavelli did not have recourse to long-winded argu- 
ments, or pedantic classifications of principles and criteria for a 
method of action. Instead he represented this process in terms of the 
qualities, characteristics, duties and requirements of a concrete 
individual. Such a procedure stimulates the artistic imagination of 
those who have to be convinced, and gives political passions a 
more concrete form.* 

Machiavelli's Prince could be studied as an historical exemplifica- 

1 See note 21 on p. 64. 

* One will have to look through the political writers who preceded Machiavelli, 
to see whether there had been other examples of such personification before The 
Prince. The "mythical" character of the book to which I have referred is due also 
to its conclusion; having described the ideal condottiere, Machiavelli here, in a 
passage of great artistic effect, invokes the real condottiere who is to incarnate 
him historically. 2 This passionate invocation reflects back on the entire book, 
and is precisely what gives it its dramatic character. L. Russo, in his Prolegomeni, 3 
calls Machiavelli the artist of politics, and once even uses the word "myth", but 
not exactly in the sense just indicated. 

2 i.e. Lorenzo de' Medici, to whom "The Prince" is addressed, and who is 
invited in the famous last chapter of the work to "make Petrarch's words come 
true : 'Virtu contro a furore prendera l'arme; e fia el combatter corto, che l'antico 
valore nell'italici cor non e ancor morto.' [Virtue will take up arms against fury ; 
and may the fight be brief, since the ancient valour is not yet dead in Italian 

8 Luigi Russo: Prolegomeni a Machiavelli, included in Ritratti e disegni storici, 
Bari 1937. We have not been able to trace the original place and date of publica- 
tion. In another note (NM. p. 141) Gramsci writes: "Russo, in his Prolegomeni, 
makes The Prince into Machiavelli's treatise on dictatorship (moment of authority 
and of the individual), and The Discourses into his treatise on hegemony (moment 
of the universal and of liberty). Russo's observation is correct, although there are 
allusions to the moment of hegemony or consent in The Prince too, b eside those to 
authority or force. Similarly, the observation is correct that there is no opposition 
in principle between Principato [see note 51 on p.249] and republic; what is involved 
is rather the hypostasis of the two moments of authority and of universality." 
See "Prediction and Perspective" on pp. 169-173. 



tion of the Sorelian myth 4 — i.e. of a political ideology expressed 
neither in the form of a cold Utopia nor as learned theorising, but 
rather by a creation of concrete phantasy which acts on a dispersed 
and shattered people to arouse and organise its collective will. The 
Utopian character of The Prince lies in the fact that the Prince had 
no real historical existence; he did not present himself immediately 
and objectively to the Italian people, but was a pure theoretical 
abstraction — a symbol of the leader and ideal condottiere. However, 
in a dramatic movement of great effect, the elements of passion 
and of myth which occur throughout the book are drawn together 
and brought to life in the conclusion, in the invocation of a prince 
who "really exists". Throughout the book, Machiavelli discusses 
what the Prince must be like if he is to lead a people to found a 
new State; the argument is developed with rigorous logic, and with 
scientific detachment. In the conclusion, Machiavelli merges with 
the people, becomes the people; not, however, some "generic" 
people, but the people whom he, Machiavelli, has convinced by the 
preceding argument — the people whose consciousness and whose 
expression he becomes and feels himself to be, with whom he feels 
identified. The entire "logical" argument now appears as nothing 
other than auto-reflection on the part of the people — an inner 

* Georges Sorel (i 84.7—1 922) was the principal theorist of revolutionary 
syndicalism, and the author notably of Reflections on Violence (1906). Influenced 
above all by Bergson and Marx, he in his turn had an immense influence in France 
and Italy — e.g. on Mussolini. His work was an amalgam of extremely disparate 
elements, reflecting the metamorphoses through which he passed — anti-Jacobin 
moralist, socialist, revolutionary syndicalist, far-right (indeed near-monarchist) 
preacher of an anti-bourgeois authoritarian moral regeneration, sympathiser with 
the Bolshevik revolution. In Reflections on Violence, Sorel develops the idea of the 
General Strike as a myth indeed "the myth in which Socialism is wholly com- 
prised, i.e. a body of images capable of evoking instinctively all the sentiments 
which correspond to the different manifestations of the war undertaken by 
Socialism against modem society". Myths "enclose within them all the strongest 
inclinations of a people, of a party, or of a class". He contrasts myth in this sense 
with Utopias "which present a deceptive mirage of the future to the people". 
(Another example of myth was Mazzini's "mad chimera", which "did more for 
Italian unity than Cavour and all the politicians of his school"). The idea of 
the General Strike "destroys all the theoretical consequences of every possible 
social policy; its partisans look upon even the most popular reforms as having a 
middle-class character; so far as they are concerned, nothing can weaken the 
fundamental opposition of the class war." The General Strike thus focuses the 
"cleavage" between the antagonistic classes, by making every individual outburst 
of violence into an act in the class war. "Cleavage", for Sorel, is the equivalent of 
class consciousness, of the class for-itself; e.g. "When the governing classes, no 
longer daring to govern, are ashamed of their privileged situation, are eager to 
make advances to their enemies, and proclaim their horror of ail cleavage in 
society, it becomes much more difficult to maintain in the minds of the proletariat 
this idea of cleavage without which Socialism cannot fulfil its historical role ." 
Reflections on Violence, Collier Books, 1950, pp. 124-26, J 33-35, 186. 



reasoning worked out in the popular consciousness, whose con- 
clusion is a cry of passionate urgency. The passion, from discussion 
of itself, becomes once again "emotion", fever, fanatical desire for 
action. This is why the epilogue of The Prince is not something 
extrinsic, tacked on, rhetorical, but has to be understood as a 
necessary element of the work — indeed as the element which gives 
the entire work its true colour, and makes it a kind of "political 

A study might be made of how it came about that Sorel never 
advanced from his conception of ideology-as-myth to an under- 
standing of the political party, but stopped short at the idea of the 
trade union. It is true that for Sorel the "myth" found its fullest 
expression not in the trade union as organisation of a collective 
will, but in its practical action — sign of a collective will already 
operative. The highest achievement of this practical action was to 
have been the general strike — i.e. a "passive activity", so to speak, 
of a negative and preliminary kind (it could only be given a positive 
character by the realisation of a common accord between the 
various wills involved), an activity which does not envisage an 
"active and constructive" phase of its own. Hence in Sorel there 
was a conflict of two necessities: that of the myth, and that of the 
critique of the myth — in that "every pre-established plan is Utopian 
and reactionary". The outcome was left to the intervention of the 
irrational, to chance (in the Bergsonian sense of "elan vital") 5 or to 

6 For Henri Bergson's key concept of "elan vital" or "vital impulse", see notably 
the final section of chapter I of his Creative Evolution. In contrast to "mech- 
anistic" theories, which "show us the gradual building-up of the machine under 
the influence of external circumstances", and to "finalist" theories, which say 
that "the parts have been brought together on a preconceived plan with a view to 
a certain end", Bergson suggests that there is ' an original impetus of life", life 
being defined as "a tendency to act on inert matter". The implications of this 
theory were an extreme voluntarism: "Before the evolution of life . . . the portals 
of the future remain wide open. It is a creation that goes on for ever in virtue of 
an initial movement." Also an emphasis on chance: "The direction of this action 
[i.e. action on inert matter] is not predetermined; hence the unforeseeable variety 
of forms which life, in evolving, sows along its path." Creative Evolution, London 

* At this point an implicit contradiction should be noted between on the one 
hand the manner in which Croce poses his problem of history and anti-history, 8 
and on the other hand certain of Croce's other modes of thought: his aversion to 
"political parties" and the way in which he poses the question of the "predict- 
ability" of social facts (see Conversazioni critiche, First series, pp. 150-52, review of 
Ludovico Limentani's book La previsione dei fatti sociali, Turin, Bocca, 1907). If 
social facts cannot be predicted, and the very concept of prediction is meaningless, 
then the irrational cannot but be dominant, and any organisation of men must 
be anti-historical a "prejudice". The only thing left to do is to resolve each 



Can a myth, however, be "non-constructive"? How could an 
instrument conceivably be effective if, as in Sorel's vision of things, 
it leaves the collective will in the primitive and elementary phase 
of its mere formation, by differentiation ("cleavage") — even when 
this differentiation is violent, that is to say destroys existing moral 
and juridical relations ? Will not that collective will, with so rudi- 
mentary a formation, at once cease to exist, scattering into an 
infinity of individual wills which in the positive phase then follow 

individual, practical problem posed by the movement of history as it comes up, 
and with extemporaneous criteria ; opportunism is the only possible political line. 
(See Croce's article II partite come giudizio e come pregiudizio, in Cullura e vita morale) . 

* For Croce's concept of history and "anti-history", see General Introduction; 
"Problems of Philosophy and History" below; and note 19 on p. 137. For his 
"aversion to political parties", see "Politics as an autonomous science", pp. 136 143 
below. Gramsci's view was, in fact, that Croce precisely himself fulfilled the 
function of a "political party" (see especially Alcuni temi; and note 39 on p. 150), 
organising the "leadership" or hegemony of the bourgeoisie at the same time as 
fascism provided a transitional form of its "domination". Croce in fact supported 
fascism initially, and continued to do so in the Senate even after Matteotti's 
murder in 1924 in fact until the banning of the Aventine opposition in 1925. 
Thereafter he maintained a critical position vis-a-vis fascism, but not of a kind to 
prevent his continuing to live and publish in Italy. At the level of political theory, 
his essential activity was directed against "the philosophy of praxis", and he 
contributed in Gramsci's view whatever his subjective intentions — to the re- 
inforcement of fascism; see for this "The History of Europe seen as 'Passive 
Revolution' " on pp. 1 18 120 above. Also Leitere dal Carcere pp. 63 1-33 : "I think 
you exaggerate Croce's present position, and see him as more isolated than he 
really is . . . Croce has published a considerable proportion of his present views 
in the review Politico, edited by Coppola and Rocco, the Minister [of Justice]; 
and in my view not just Coppola but many others too are convinced of the use- 
fulness of the position taken up by Croce, which creates a situation in which it 
becomes possible to give the new ruling groups which have emerged since the 
war a real education for public life. If you study all Italian history since 1815, 
you will see that a small ruling group has succeeded in methodically absorbing 
into its own ambit the entire political personnel thrown up by the various, originally 
subversive, mass movements. From i860 to 1876 the Mazzinian and Garibaldine 
Action Party was absorbed by the Monarchy, leaving only an insignificant residue 
which lived on as the Republican Party, but whose significance was more folk- 
loristic than historico-political. The phenomenon was called 'transformism', but 
it was not an isolated phenomenon; it was an organic process which, in the 
formation of the ruling class, replaced what in France had happened in the 
Revolution and under Napoleon, and in England under Cromwell. Indeed, even 
after 1876 the process continued, molecularly. It assumed massive proportions 
after the War, when the traditional ruling group appeared no longer capable of 
assimilating and digesting the new forces thrown up by events. But this ruling 
group is more 'malin' and capable than one could have imagined : the absorption 
is difficult and laborious, but takes place nonetheless, by a host of different ways 
and means. Croce's activity is one of these ways and means ; indeed, his teaching 
produces perhaps the greatest quantity of 'gastric juices' to assist the process of 
digestion. Set in its historical context, the context of Italian history, Croce's 
work appears to be the most powerful mechanism for 'conforming' the new forces 
to its vital interests (not simply its immediate interests, but its future ones as 
well) that the dominant group today possesses, and I think that the latter has a 
proper appreciation of his utility, superficial appearances notwithstanding". 



separate and conflicting paths? Quite apart from the lact that 
destruction and negation cannot exist without an implicit construc- 
tion and affirmation — this not in a "metaphysical" sense but in 
practice, i.e. politically, as party programme. In Sorel's case it is 
clear that behind the spontaneity there lies a purely mechanistic 
assumption, behind the liberty (will — life-force) a maximum of 
determinism, behind the idealism an absolute materialism. 

The modern prince, the myth-prince, cannot be a real person, 
a concrete individual. It can only be an organism, a complex element 
of society in which a collective will, which has already been recog- 
nised and has to some extent asserted itself in action, begins to take 
concrete form. History has already provided this organism, and it 
is the political party — the first cell in which there come together 
germs of a collective will tending to become universal and total. 
In the modern world, only those historico-political actions which 
are immediate and imminent, characterised by the necessity for 
lightning speed, can be incarnated mythically by a concrete 
individual. Such speed can only be made necessary by a great 
and imminent danger, a great danger which precisely fans passion 
and fanaticism suddenly to a white heat, and annihilates the critical 
sense and the corrosive irony which are able to destroy the "charis- 
matic" character of the condottiere (as happened in the Boulanger 
adventure). 7 But an improvised action of such a kind, by its very 
nature, cannot have a long-term and organic character. It will in 
almost all cases be appropriate to restoration and reorganisation, 
but not to the founding of new States or new national and social 
structures (as was at issue in Machiavelli's Prince, in which the 
theme of restoration was merely a rhetorical element, linked to the 
literary concept of an Italy descended from Rome and destined to 
restore the order and the power of Rome).* It will be defensive 

7 General Boulanger (1837 91) was French Minister of War in 1886. He 
symbolised the idea of revanche (against Germany after the Franco-Prussian War of 
1870-71) in the popular consciousness. The government became afraid of his 
popularity, and of his tractations with monarchist forces. They dismissed him, 
and posted him to Clermont-Ferrand. He founded a Boulangist party, which 
called for a new Constituent Assembly, a military regeneration of the nation, and 
reform of "the abuses of parliamentarism". Elected with a huge majority to the 
National Assembly, he appeared likely to attempt a coup — which could well have 
succeeded — but in fact hesitated, and subsequently fled the country fearing 
imminent arrest (1889). 

* It is true that Machiavelli was inspired to his political conception of the 
necessity for a unitary Italian State not only by the example and model of the 
great absolute monarchies of France and Spain, but also by the remembrance of 
Rome's past. However, it should be emphasised that this is no reason for confusing 
Machiavelli with the literary-rhetorical tradition. For this element is neither 



rather than capable of original creation. Its underlying assumption 
will be that a collective will, already in existence, has become 
nerveless and dispersed, has suffered a collapse which is dangerous 
and threatening but not definitive and catastrophic, and that it is 
necessary to reconcentrate and reinforce it — rather than that a new 
collective will must be created from scratch, to be directed towards 
goals which are concrete and rational, but whose concreteness and 
rationality have not yet been put to the critical test by a real and 
universally known historical experience. 

The abstract character of the Sorelian conception of the myth is 
manifest in its aversion (which takes the emotional form of an 
ethical repugnance) for the Jacobins, who were certainly a "cate- 
gorical embodiment" of Machiavelli's Prince. 8 The Modern Prince 
must have a part devoted to Jacobinism (in the integral sense which 
this notion has had historically, and must have conceptually), as 
an exemplification of the concrete formation and operation of a 
collective will which at least in some aspects was an original, ex 
novo creation. And a definition must be given of collective will, and 
of political will in general, in the modern sense : will as operative 
awareness of historical necessity, as protagonist of a real and effective 
historical drama. 

One of the first sections must precisely be devoted to the "collective 
will", posing the question in the following terms: "When can the 
conditions for awakening and developing a national-popular 
collective will be said to exist?" 9 Hence an historical (economic) 
analysis of the social structure of the given country and a "dramatic" 
representation of the attempts made in the course of the centuries 
to awaken this will, together with the reasons for the successive 
failures. Why was there no absolute monarchy in Italy in Machia- 
velli's time? One has to go back to the Roman Empire (the language 
question, problem of the intellectuals, etc.), and understand the 

exclusive nor even predominant, nor is the necessity for a great national State 
argued from it; moreover, this very allusion to Rome is less abstract than it may 
seem, when it is set in its correct context of the intellectual climate of Humanism 
and Renaissance. In Book VII of the Art of War one finds: "This province (Italy) 
seems born to bring dead things back to life, as we have seen occur with poetry, 
with painting and with sculpture" why then should it not rediscover military 
skill too ? etc. One would have to collect together all the other references of this 
kind in order to establish their exact character. 

8 For Gramsci's conception of the relation between Machiavelli, Jacobinism 
and the Communist Party, see introductions to "Notes on Italian History" and 
to this section (pp. 44 47 and 123-4). See too "Material for a critical essay on 
Croce's two Histories , on pp. 114 118 above. On Ris. p. 155 Gramsci defines 
"historical Jacobinism" as ' union of city and countryside". 

' For the concept of national popular, see note 65 on p. 421. 


function of the mediaeval Communes, the significance of Catholicism 
etc. 10 In short, one has to make an outline of the whole history of 
Italy — in synthesis, but accurate. 

The reason for the failures of the successive attempts to create a 
national-popular collective will is to be sought in the existence of 
certain specific social groups which were formed at the dissolution 
of the Communal bourgeoisie; in the particular character of other 
groups which reflect the international function of Italy as seat of 
the Church and depositary of the Holy Roman Empire; and so on. 
This function and the position which results from it have brought 
about an internal situation which may be called "economic- 
corporate" 11 — politically, the worst of all forms of feudal society, 
the least progressive and the most stagnant. An effective Jacobin 
force was always missing, and could not be constituted; and it was 
precisely such a Jacobin force which in other nations awakened and 
organised the national-popular collective will, and founded the 
modem States. Do the necessary conditions for this will finally 
exist, or rather what is the present relation between these conditions 
and the forces opposed to them? Traditionally the forces of opposi- 
tion have been the landed aristocracy and, more generally, landed 
property as a whole. Italy's particular characteristic is a special 
"rural bourgeoisie" ', 12 a legacy of parasitism bequeathed to modern 
times by the disintegration as a class of the Communal bourgeoisie 
(the hundred cities, the cities of silence). 13 The positive conditions 

10 For Gramsci's discussion of the "language question", see Int. pp. 21-25, etc. 
In the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church fought against the use of the vernacular 
and for the preservation of Latin as the "universal" language, since this was a 
key element in its own intellectual hegemony. Dante, for example, felt compelled 
to defend his use of (Florentine) Italian in the Divine Comedy. Gramsci describes 
the emergence of Florentine dialect as a "noble vernacular". "The flowering of 
the Communes developed the vernaculars, and the intellectual hegemony of 
Florence produced a united vernacular, a noble vernacular. . . . The fall of the 
Communes and the advent of the Princely regime, the creation of a governing 
caste detached from the people, crystallised this vernacular in the same way as 
literary Latin had become crystallised. Italian was once again a written and not 
a spoken language, a language of scholars rather than a language of the nation" 
The language question was simplified at one level in the nineteenth century, 
when literary Italian finally defeated Latin as the language of learning, and when 
it was adopted as the language of the new Italian national state. But it persists 
in the existence of dialects as the "mother-tongue" in many Italian regions even 
today, despite the development of the mass media and universal education in this 

For the Communes, see note 4 on p. 53. 

11 For the concept of economic-corporate, see note 4 on p. 53, and also 
Notes on Gramsci's Terminology, p. xiii. 

11 On the "rural bourgeoisie", see note 61 on p. 91, and "Subversive", 
pp. 272-5 below. 

15 See notes 61 and 62 on p. 91. 



are to be sought in the existence of urban social groups which have 
attained an adequate development in the field of industrial produc- 
tion and a certain level of historico-political culture. Any formation 
of a national-popular collective will is impossible, unless the great 
mass of peasant farmers bursts simultaneously into political life. That 
was Machiavelli's intention through the reform of the militia, and 
it was achieved by the Jacobins in the French Revolution. That 
Machiavelli understood it reveals a precocious Jacobinism that is the 
(more or less fertile) germ of his conception of national revolution. 
All history from 1815 onwards shows the efforts of the traditional 
classes to prevent the formation of a collective will of this kind, and 
to maintain "economic-corporate" power in an international system 
of passive equilibrium. 

An important part of The Modern Prince will have to be devoted 
to the question of intellectual and moral reform, that is to the 
question of religion or world-view. In this field too we find in the 
existing tradition an absence of Jacobinism and fear of Jacobinism 
(the latest philosophical expression of such fear is B. Croce's 
Malthusian attitude towards religion). 14 The modern Prince must 

14 Gramsci alludes to Malthus here, as he usually does, simply to indicate fear 
of, or contempt for, the masses. On MS, pp. 224. 29 he discusses Croce's attitude 
to religion, and the character of the "reformation" which he represents. Gramsci 
criticises Croce for not understanding that "the philosophy of praxis, with its vast 
mass movement, has represented and does represent an historical process similar 
to the Reformation, in contrast with liberalism, which reproduces a Renaissance 
which is narrowly limited to restricted intellectual groups. . . . Croce is essentially 
anti-confessional (we cannot call him anti-religious given his definition of religious 
reality) and for numerous Italian and European intellectuals his philosophy . . . 
has been a genuine intellectual and moral reform similar to the Renaissance . . . 
But Croce did not 'go to the people', did not wish to become a 'national' element 
(just as the men of the Renaissance unlike the Lutherans and Calvinists were 
not 'national' elements) , did not wish to create a band of disciples who . . . could 
have popularised his philosophy and tried to make it into an educative element, 
starting in the primary school (and hence educative for the simple worker or 
peasant, i.e. for the simple man of the people). Perhaps this was impossible, but 
it was worth trying and the fact that it was not tried is certainly significant." 
Gramsci goes on to criticise Croce's view that religion is appropriate for the 
masses, while only an elite of superior intellects are capable of a rational conception 
of the world. Croce was minister of education in Giolitti's 1920-21 government, 
and introduced a draft bill to reorganise the national educational system; this 
bill provided for the reintroduction of religious instruction in the primary schools 

something which had not existed since the 1859 Casati Act laid the basis for 
the educational system of post-Risorgimento Italy. In fact, Giolitti withdrew the 
bill, but the main lines of it were taken up by Gentile when, as minister of education 
in the first Fascist government of 1922, he drew up the Gentile Act, which was 
passed in 1923. (See note 15 on p. 41.) 

For the concept of "intellectual and moral reform" (taken from Renan), see 
"Philosophy of Praxis and Modern Culture" on pp. 388 99. It should be noted 
that the Italian word "riforma" translates both "reform" and "reformation" in 



be and cannot but be the proclaimer and organiser of an intellectual 
and moral reform, which also means creating the terrain for a 
subsequent development of the national-popular collective will to- 
wards the realisation of a superior, total form of modern civilisation. 

These two basic points — the formation of a national-popular 
collective will, of which the modern Prince is at one and the same 
time the organiser and the active, operative expression; and 
intellectual and moral reform — should structure the entire work. 
The concrete, programmatic points must be incorporated in the 
first part, that is they should result from the line of discussion 
"dramatically", and not be a cold and pedantic exposition of argu- 

Can there be cultural reform, and can the position of the depressed 
strata of society be improved culturally, without a previous economic 
reform and a change in their position in the social and economic 
fields? Intellectual and moral reform has to be linked with a 
programme of economic reform — indeed the programme of economic 
reform is precisely the concrete form in which every intellectual 
and moral reform presents itself. The modern Prince, as it develops, 
revolutionises the whole system of intellectual and moral relations, 
in that its development means precisely that any given act is seen 
as useful or harmful, as virtuous or as wicked, only in so far as it 
has as its point of reference the modern Prince itself, and helps to 
strengthen or to oppose it. In men's consciences, the Prince takes 
the place of the divinity or the categorical imperative, and becomes 
the basis for a modern laicism and for a complete laicisation of all 
aspects of life and of all customary relationships. [1933-34: 1st 
version 1931-32.] 


The basic innovation introduced by the philosophy of praxis into 
the science of politics and of history is the demonstration that there 
is no abstract "human nature", fixed and immutable (a concept 
which certainly derives from religious and transcendentalist 
thought), but that human nature is the totality of historically 
determined social relations, hence an historical fact which can, 
within certain limits, be ascertained with the methods of philology 
and criticism. Consequently political science, as far as both its 
concrete content and its logical formulation are concerned, must 

16 This note was given no title in its final version translated here, so we have 
given it the title used by Gramsci for the first version. 



be seen as a developing organism. It must, however, be noted that 
the way in which Machiavelli posed the problem of politics (i.e. 
the assertion implicit in his writings that politics is an autonomous 
activity, with its own principles and laws distinct from those of 
morality and religion — a proposition with far-reaching philosophical 
consequences, since it implicitly introduces a new conception of 
morality and religion, a new world-view) is still questioned and 
rejected even today, and has not succeeded in becoming "common 
sense". What does that mean ? Does it mean only that the intellectual 
and moral revolution whose elements are to be found embryonically 
in Machiavelli's thought has not yet taken place, has not become 
the public and manifest form of the national culture ? Or does it 
simply have a current political significance; does it serve to indicate 
the gulf which exists between rulers and ruled, to indicate that 
there exist two cultures — that of the rulers and that of the ruled — 
and that the ruling class like the Church has its own attitude 
towards the common people, dictated by the necessity on the one 
hand of not becoming detached from them, and on the other of 
keeping them convinced that Machiavelli is nothing other than the 
devil incarnate? 

Here one comes up against the problem of Machiavelli's signific- 
ance in his own time, and of the objectives he set himself in writing 
his books, particularly The Prince. Machiavelli's ideas were not, in 
his own day, purely "bookish", the monopoly of isolated thinkers, 
a secret memorandum circulating among the initiated. Machiavelli's 
style is not that of a systematic compiler of treatises, such as abounded 
during the Middle Ages and Humanism, quite the contrary; it 
is the style of a man of action, of a man urging action, the style 
of a party manifesto. The moralistic interpretation offered by 
Foscolo 16 is certainly mistaken. It is quite true that Machiavelli 
revealed something, and did not merely theorise reality; but what 
was the aim of his revelation? A moralistic aim or a political one? 
It is commonly asserted that Machiavelli's standards of political 
behaviour are practised, but not admitted. Great politicians — it is 

14 Foscolo wrote in his famous poem Dei Sepokri [On Tombs] : "Io quando il 
mommado vidi ove posa il corpo di quel grande] che temprando lo scettro dregnatortf gli 
allor ne sfronda, ed die genti svelaj di che lagrime grondi e di che sangue;" [When I saw 
the monument where lies the body of that great man who, even as he strengthens 
the sceptre of rulers, plucks away the laurel leaves and reveals to their peoples 
the tears and blood running down it.] In other words Foscolo saw Machiavelli 
as revealing the tyranny of the rulers even while he strengthened their power. 
But Gramsci condemns the moralism of this reduction of Machiavelli to little 
more than an encouragement to "tyrant-haters". For further discussion by 
Gramsci of Foscolo's and other interpretations of Machiavelli, see NM. pp. 1 15-19. 



said — start off by denouncing Machiavelli, by declaring themselves 
to be anti-Machiavellian, precisely in order to be able to put his 
standards "piously" into practice. Was not Machiavelli himself a 
poor Machiavellian, one of those who "are in the know" and 
foolishly give the game away, whereas vulgar Machiavellianism 
teaches one to do just the opposite? Croce asserted that Machia- 
vellianism was a science, serving reactionaries and democrats alike, 
just as skilful swordplay serves both honest men and brigands, for 
self-defence and for murder; and that this was the sense in which 
Foscolo's opinion should be taken. This is true in the abstract. 
Machiavelli himself remarks that what he is writing about is in 
fact practised, and has always been practised, by the greatest men 
throughout history. So it does not seem that he was writing for 
those who are already in the know; nor is his style that of dis- 
interested scientific activity; nor is it possible to think that he 
arrived at his theses in the field of political science by way of 
philosophical speculation — which would have been something of a 
miracle in that field at the time, when even today he meets with 
such hostility and opposition. 

One may therefore suppose that Machiavelli had in mind "those 
who are not in the know", and that it was they whom he intended 
to educate politically. This was no negative political education — of 
tyrant-haters — as Foscolo seems to have understood it; but a 
positive education — of those who have to recognise certain means 
as necessary, even if they are the means of tyrants, because they 
desire certain ends. Anyone bom into the traditional governing 
stratum acquires almost automatically the characteristics of the 
political realist, as a result of the entire educational complex which 
he absorbs from his family milieu, in which dynastic or patrimonial 
interests predominate. Who therefore is "not in the know"? The 
revolutionary class of the time, the Italian "people" or "nation", 
the citizen democracy which gave birth to men like Savonarola 
and Pier Soderini, rather than to a Castruccio or a Valentino. 17 

17 Savonarola, Girolamo (1452-98). A Dominican friar who announced the 
imminent castigation and reform of the Church, he gained immense popular 
support, notably in Florence especially when the invasion of Charles VIII in 
1 492 seemed to fulfil his predictions. He was the leader of a theocratic state in 
Florence 1495 98. The Papacy tried to stop his preaching by threats of excom- 
munication and bribes of a cardinal's hat, and in 1497 did in fact excommunicate 
him. The Florentine Signoria, who had made use of Savonarola against the Pope, 
turned against him in the course of a complex faction fight, and he was burned 
at the stake. He has often been seen as a precursor of the Reformation. 

Pier Soderini (1452-1522) was a Florentine politician who, as gonfaloniere of 
the city from 1502-12, instituted a legal reform and supported Machiavelli's idea 



It seems clear that Machiavelli wished to persuade these forces of 
the necessity of having a leader who knew what he wanted and 
how to obtain it, and of accepting him with enthusiasm even if his 
actions might conflict or appear to conflict with the generalised 
ideology of the time — religion. 

This position in which Machiavelli found himself politically is 
repeated today for the philosophy of praxis. Once more there is the 
necessity to be "anti-Machiavellian", to develop a theory and 
technique of politics which — however strong the belief that they will 
in the final resort be especially useful to the side which was "not 
in the know", since that is where the historically progressive force 
is to be found — might be useful to both sides in the struggle. In 
actual fact, one immediate result is achieved, in that the unity 
based on traditional ideology is broken; until this happens, it is 
impossible for the new forces to arrive at a consciousness of their 
own independent personality. Machiavellianism has helped to 
improve the traditional political technique of the conservative 
ruling groups, just as the politics of the philosophy of praxis does. 
That should not disguise its essentially revolutionary character 
which is still felt today, and which explains all anti-Machiavellianism, 
from that of the Jesuits to the pietistic anti-Machiavellianism of 
Pasquale Villari. 18 [1933-34: 1st version 1931—32] 


The first question that must be raised and resolved in a study of 
Machiavelli is the question of politics as an autonomous science, of 
the place that political science occupies or should occupy in a 
systematic (coherent and logical) conception of the world, in a 
philosophy of praxis. 

of a militia. Machiavelli, however, had a low opinion of him, and commemorated 
his death with a savage epigram: "La notte che morl Pier Soderini, L'anima 
ando dell'inferno alia bocca; Ma Pluto le grido: anima sciocca! Che inferno! 
vanne al limbo coi bambini!" [The night that Pier Soderini died, his soul 
approached the gates of hell; but Pluto cried out: foolish spirit! not hell! off to 
limbo with the children!] Duke Valentino, better known as Cesare Borgia 
(1476 1517), was the son of cardinal Rodrigo Borgia, later Pope Alexander VI. 
A brilliant intriguer and soldier, Machiavelli made him the hero of The Prince, 
seeing him as having created in the Romagna province (around Rimini and 
Ravenna) the kind of stable state upon which an Italian nation could be based, 
and depicting him as the perfect condottiere. Castruccio Castracani (1 281-1328) 
was also a condottiere, who ruled Lucca. Machiavelli celebrated him in his Vita 
di Castruccio Castracani da Lucca. 

18 Pasquale Villari (1826 1917), historian and politician, wrote books on 
Savonarola and Machiavelli (Niccold Machiavelli e i suoi tempi, 1877-82). His 
treatment of Machiavelli was naively and heavily moralistic. 



The progress brought about by Croce in this respect in the study 
of Machiavelli and in political science consists mainly (as in other 
fields of Croce's critical activity) in the dissolution of a series of 
false, non-existent or wrongly formulated problems. 19 Croce based 
himself on his distinction of the moments of the spirit, and on his 
affirmation of a moment of practice, of a practical spirit, autonomous 
and independent though linked in a circle to all reality by the 
dialectic of distincts. In a philosophy of praxis, the distinction will 
certainly not be between the moments of the absolute Spirit, but 
between the levels of the superstructure. The problem will therefore 
be that of establishing the dialectical position of political activity 
(and of the corresponding science) as a particular level of the 
superstructure. One might say, as a first schematic approximation, 
that political activity is precisely the first moment or first level; the 
moment in which the superstructure is still in the unmediated phase 
of mere wishful affirmation, confused and still at an elementary 

In what sense can one identify politics with history, and hence 
all of life with politics? How then could the whole system of super- 
structures be understood as distinctions within politics, and the 
introduction of the concept of distinction into a philosophy of 
praxis hence be justified ? But can one really speak of a dialectic of 
distincts, and how is the concept of a circle joining the levels of the 
superstructure to be understood? Concept of "historical bloc", i.e. 
unity between nature and spirit (structure and superstructure), 
unity of opposites and of distincts. 

Can one introduce the criterion of distinction into the structure 
too? How is structure to be understood? How, in the system of 
social relations, will one be able to distinguish the element "tech- 
nique", "work", "class", etc., understood in an historical and not 
in a metaphysical sense ? Critique of Croce's position ; for polemical 

11 Croce notably attacked any moralistic interpretation of Machiavelli (as he 
did of Marx), for instance that of Villari, "for whom Machiavelli's great defect 
is that he fails to see the moral problem . . . Machiavelli starts by establishing a 
fact : the conditions of struggle in which society finds itself. He then gives rules in 
accordance with this objective condition. Why . . . should he concern himself 
with the ethics of the struggle?" 

The paragraphs which follow discuss some of the more technical aspects of 
Croce's philosophy. For the "dialectic of distincts" see Introduction, p. xxiii. 
For Croce's concept of politics as passion, see note 35 on p. 349. The discussion of 
superstructure and structure, and of "appearances", relates to Croce's speech on 
"Anti history" to the Oxford Philosophical Congress in 1 930, when he attacked 
what he understood as Marxism — and what Gramsci points out frequently is in 
fact vulgar Marxism for reducing the "superstructure" to a mere "appearance" 
(phenomenon), etc. (See MS. p. 229, etc.). For Kant's Noumenon, see pp. 367 8. 

i 3 8 


ends, he represents the structure as a "hidden god", a "noumenon", 
in contrast to the "appearances" of the superstructure. "Appear- 
ances" both metaphorically and literally. How "historically", and 
as a fact of speech, was the notion of "appearances" arrived at? 

It is interesting to establish how Croce developed his own in- 
dividual theory of error and of the practical origin of error from 
this general conception. For Croce, error has its origin in an 
immediate "passion" — one, that is, of an individual or group 
character. But what will produce the "passion" of more far- 
reaching historical importance, the passion as a category? The 
passion/immediate interest which is the origin of error is the 
moment which in the Theses on Feuerbach is called schmutzig- 
jiidisch. But just as the passion/ ' schmutzig-jiidisch interest determines 
immediate error, so does the passion of the larger social group 
determine the philosophical error, while between the two is the 
error/ideology, which Croce deals with separately. In this series: 
"egoism (immediate error) — ideology — philosophy", it is the 
common term "error" which is important. This is linked to the 
various levels of passion, and must be understood not in a moralistic 
or scholastic sense, but in the purely historical and dialectical sense 
of "that which is historically decayed, and deserves to fall" — in the 
sense of the non-definitive character of all philosophy, of the 
"death/life", "being/non-being", i.e. of the term of the dialectic 
which the latter must transcend in its forward movement. 

The terms "apparent" and "appearance" mean precisely this 
and nothing else, and are justifiable despite dogmatic opposition. 
They are the assertion of the perishable nature of all ideological 
systems, side by side with the assertion that all systems have an 
historical validity, and are necessary ("Man acquires consciousness 
of social relations in the field of ideology": 20 is not this an assertion 
of the necessity and the validity of "appearances"?) [1933-34: 
1st version 1932-33.] 

Croce's conception of politics/passion excludes parties, since it is 
not possible to think of an organised and permanent passion. 
Permanent passion is a condition of orgasm and of spasm, which 
means operational incapacity. It excludes parties, and excludes 

10 The exact quotation, from Marx' Preface to The Critique of Political Econonty, 
is: "a distinction should always be made between the material transformation 
of the economic conditions of production, which can be determined with the 
precision of natural science, and the legal, political, religious, aesthetic or philo- 
sophic — in short, ideological forms in which men become conscious of this conflict 
[i.e. that between the material productive forces of society and the existing 
relations of production] and fight it out". 



every plan of action worked out in advance. However, parties exist 
and plans of action are worked out, put into practice, and are often 
successful to a remarkable extent. So there is a flaw in Croce's 
conception. Nor is it enough to say that, even if parties exist, that 
has little theoretical importance, because at the moment of action the 
party in operation is not the same thing as the "party" which 
existed previously. There may be a partial truth in this, but the 
points of coincidence between the two "parties" are such that one 
may really be said to be dealing with the same organism. 

But for Croce's conception to be valid, it would have to be 
possible to apply it also to war, and hence to explain the fact of 
standing armies, military academies, officer corps. War in progress 
too is "passion", the most intense and febrile of all passions; it is a 
moment of political life; it is the continuation in other forms of a 
given policy. It is necessary therefore to explain how passion can 
become moral "duty" — duty in terms not of political morality but 
of ethics. 

On political plans, which are related to the parties as permanent 
formations, recall what Moltke 21 said of military plans; that they 
cannot be worked out and finalised in advance in every particular, 
but only in so far as their nucleus and central design is concerned, 
since the details of the action depend to a certain extent on the 
moves of the adversary. It is precisely in the details that passion 
manifests itself, but it does not appear that Moltke's principle is 
such as to justify Croce's conception. There would still remain to 
be explained the kind of passion of the General Staff which worked 
out the plan in the light of cold reason, and "dispassionately". 
[1933-34: 1 st version 1931-32.] 

If the Crocean concept of passion as a moment of politics comes 
up against the difficulty of explaining and justifying the permanent 
political formations, such as the parties and still more the national 
armies and General Staffs, since it is impossible to conceive of a 
passion being organised permanently without its becoming ration- 
ality and deliberate reflection and hence no longer passion, the 
solution can only be found in the identification of politics and 
economics. Politics becomes permanent action and gives birth to 
permanent organisations precisely in so far as it identifi es itself with 

a General Moltke (the younger, 1848-1916) was German Chief of Staff, 
igo6-i4 and the successor of Schlieffen. His modifications of the famous "Schlieffen 
Plan" for war against France were blamed for the German failure to defeat the 
French decisively in 1914, and led to his removal. In feet, modern historiography 
(and the unearthing of the original Schlieffen Plan) make it clear that he was a 
scapegoat, sacrificed to an unmerited myth of Schlieffen's infallibility. 



economics. But it is also distinct from it, which is why one may 
speak separately of economics and politics, and speak of "political 
passion" as of an immediate impulse to action which is born on the 
"permanent and organic" terrain of economic life but which 
transcends it, bringing into play emotions and aspirations in whose 
incandescent atmosphere even calculations involving the individual 
human life itself obey different laws from those of individual profit, 
etc. [1931-32] 

Beside the merits of modern Machiavelli studies derived from 
Croce, the exaggerations and distortions which they have inspired 
should also be noted. The habit has been formed of considering 
Machiavelli too much as the man of politics in general, as the 
"scientist of politics", relevant in every period. 

Machiavelli should be considered more as a necessary expression 
of his time, and as closely tied to the conditions and exigencies of 
his time, which were the result: 1. of the internal struggles of the 
Florentine republic, and of the particular structure of the State, 
which was unable to free itself from the residues of commune and 
municipality — i.e. from a form of feudalism which had become a 
hindrance; 2. of the struggles between the Italian states for a 
balance of power throughout Italy — which was obstructed by the 
existence of the Papacy and the other feudal and municipalistic 
residues of forms of state based on city rather than on territory; 
3. of the struggles of the Italian states, more or less united, for a 
European balance of power — or, put in another way, of the con- 
tradictions between the requirements of an internal balance of 
power in Italy and the exigencies of the European states struggling 
for hegemony. 

Machiavelli is influenced by the examples of France and Spain, 
which have achieved as states a strong territorial unity; he makes 
an "elliptic comparison" (to use Croce's expression) and deduces 
the rules for a strong State in general and a strong Italian State 
in particular. Machiavelli is a man wholly of his period; his political 
science represents the philosophy of the time, which tended to the 
organisation of absolute national monarchies — the political form 
which permitted and facilitated a further development of bourgeois 
productive forces. In Machiavelli one may discover in embryonic 
form both the separation of powers and parliamentarianism (the 
representative regime). His "ferocity" 22 is turned against the 

82 Ferocia. Machiavelli wrote: "Cesare Borgia was considered cruel: yet that 
cruelty of his had restored Romagna, united it, rendered it peaceful and loyal. . . . 
Thus a prince must not mind if he has a reputation for cruelty." 



residues of the feudal world, not against the progressive classes. 
The Prince is to put an end to feudal anarchy; and that is what 
Valentino does in Romagna, basing himself on the support of the 
productive classes, merchants and peasants. Given the military- 
dictatorial character of the head of state, such as is needed in a 
period of struggle for the installation and consolidation of a new 
form of power, the class references contained in the Art of War 
must be taken as referring as well to the general structure of the 
State: if the urban classes wish to put an end to internal disorder 
and external anarchy, they must base themselves on the mass of the 
peasants, and constitute a reliable and loyal armed force of a kind 
totally different from the companies of fortune. 23 One may say that 
the essentially political conception is so dominant in Machiavelli 
that it makes him commit errors in the military field. He gives most 
thought to the infantry, who can be recruited en masse through 
political action, and as a result he misjudges the significance of 
artillery. [1933-4: 1st version 1929-30.] 

Russo (in Prolegomeni a Machiavelli) remarks correctly that the 
Art of War contains The Prince within it, but he fails to draw all the 
conclusions from his observation. Even in the Art of War, Machia- 
velli must be seen as a man of politics who has to concern himself 
with military theory. His one-sidedness (together with other 
idiosyncrasies such as the phalanx theory, which give rise to facile 
sallies of wit, the best-known of which originated with Bandello) 2 * 
comes from the fact that the centre of his interest and of his thought 
does not lie in the question of military technique, which he deals 
with only in so far as it is necessary for his political edifice. More- 
over, not only the Art of War but also the History of Florence must 
be related to The Prince; this was precisely intended to serve as an 
analysis of the real conditions in Italy and in Europe from which 
the immediate demands contained in The Prince spring. [1933-4] 

A secondary consequence of a conception of Machiavelli which 
takes more fully into account the period in which he lived is a more 

** See note 21 on p. 64. 

24 Bandello (1480-1562), was the author of a popular collection of stories. 
One was dedicated to Giovanni de' Medici, better known as Giovanni delle 
Bande Nere, the famous condottiere. In his dedication, Bandello recalls somewhat 
maliciously how one day "Messire Niccold [i.e. Machiavelli] kept us that day 
over two hours in the sun while he was about setting three thousand foot-soldiers 
into the order of which he had written — without ever succeeding in so ordering 
them". Whereupon, at Bandello's own suggestion, Giovanni had called Machia- 
velli back, and had himself drawn up the troops "in the twinkling of an eye". 
See for this NM. 122 3. Machiavelli's phalanx theory was developed in his 
Art of War. 



historicist evaluation of the so-called anti-Machiavellians, or at 
least of the most "ingenuous" of them. They are not really so much 
anti-Machiavellians as politicians who express exigencies of their 
time or of conditions different from those which affected Machia- 
velli; the polemical form is nothing but a contingent literary 
device. The typical example it seems to me of these anti-Machia- 
vellians is Jean Bodin (1530-96), who was a delegate to the Estates 
General of Blois in 1576 and there persuaded the Third Estate 
to refuse the subsidies requested for the civil war.* 

During the civil wars in France, Bodin is the exponent of the 
third party — the so-called politicians' party — which defends the 
viewpoint of national interest, that is to say of an internal balance 
of classes in which hegemony belongs to the Third Estate through 
the monarchy. It seems evident to me that classifying Bodin among 
the anti-Machiavellians is an absolutely irrelevant and superficial 
question. Bodin lays the foundations of political science in France 
on a terrain which is far more advanced and complex than that 
which Italy offered to Machiavelli. For Bodin the question is not 
that of founding the territorially united (national) State — i.e. of 
going back to the time of Louis XI — but of balancing the con- 
flicting social forces within this already strong and well-implanted 
State. Bodin is interested in the moment of consent, not in the 
moment of force. With Bodin there is a tendency to develop the 
absolute monarchy: the Third Estate is so aware of its strength and 
its dignity, it knows so well that the fortunes of the absolute monarchy 
are linked to its own fortunes and its own development, that it 
poses conditions for its loyalty, it presents demands, tends to limit 
absolutism. In France Machiavelli was already at the service of 
reaction, since he could serve to justify maintaining the world 
perpetually in the "cradle" (in Bertrando Spaventa's expression); 25 
hence it was necessary to be polemically anti-Machiavellian. 

It should be noted that in the Italy studied by Machiavelli there 

* Bodin's works: Methodus adfacilem historiarum cognitionem (1566), in which he 
shows the influence of climate on forms of State, hints at an idea of progress, etc.; 
Repuhlique ( 1 576), in which he expresses the opinions of the Third Estate on absolute 
monarchy and its relations with the people ; Heptaplomeres (unpublished until the 
modern era), in which he compares all religions and justifies them as different 
expressions of natural religion which alone is reasonable, and as all equally 
worthy of respect and tolerance. 

25 Bertrando Spaventa (1817-83), a philosopher influenced by German idealism 
and above all Hegel, did much to introduce the latter into Italy and was an 
important precursor of Croce and Gentile. Critical of the provincialism of Italian 
intellectuals, he was particularly hostile to Gioberti and Catholic thought in 
general. He was a senator (of the Right) until 1876. 



existed no representative institutions already developed and sig- 
nificant in national life like the Estates General in France. When 
in modern times it is suggested tendentiously that parliamentary 
institutions in Italy were imported from abroad, 26 it is not realised 
that this fact only reflects a condition of backwardness and of 
stagnation of Italian political and social history from 1500 until 
1700 — a condition which was to a great extent due to the pre- 
ponderance of international relations over internal ones, which 
were paralysed and congealed. Is it really a national "originality", 
destroyed by the importation of parliamentary forms, that the 
State structure in Italy, as a result of foreign dominance, should 
have remained in the semi-feudal phase of an object of foreign 
suzerainty? In fact parliamentary institutions give a form to the 
process of national liberation, and to the transition to a modern 
(independent and national) territorial State. Moreover, represen- 
tative institutions did exist, especially in the South and in Sicily, 
but of a far more limited kind than in France, for the Third 
Estate was little developed in these regions, and hence the Parlia- 
ments were instruments for upholding the anarchy of the barons 
against the innovating attempts of the monarchy, which in the 
absence of a bourgeoisie had to base itself on the support of the 
mob.* 27 That Machiavelli should only have been able to express 
his programme and his tendency to relate city to countryside in 
military terms is understandable if one reflects that French 
Jacobinism would be inexplicable without the presupposition of 
Physiocrat culture, with its demonstration of the economic and 
social importance of the peasant proprietor. Machiavelli's economic 
theories have been studied by Gino Arias (in the Annali d' Economia 
of the Bocconi University in Milan), but it might be queried whether 
Machiavelli really had any economic theories. One will have to 
see whether Machiavelli's essentially political language can be 
translated into economic terms, and to which economic system it 
could be reduced. See whether Machiavelli living in the mercantilist 
period was politically in advance of his time, and anticipated 
certain demands which later found expression in the Physiocrats.** 

t 1 933-34= 1st version 1931-32] 

29 i.e. by fascist spokesmen, justifying the abolition of parliamentary institutions. 

* Recall Antonio Panella's study of the anti-Machiavellians published in 
Marzocco in 1927 (or even in 1926?), in eleven articles: see how Bodin is judged 
in it compared with Machiavelli, and how the problem of anti-Machiavellianism 
is posed in general. 27 lazzari, see note 35 on p. 71. 

** Would Rousseau have been possible either, without Physiocrat culture ? It 
does not seem to me correct to claim that the Physiocrats merely represented 



It really must be stressed that it is precisely the first elements, the 
most elementary things, which are the first to be forgotten. How- 
ever, if they are repeated innumerable times, they become the 
pillars of politics and of any collective action whatsoever. 

The first element is that there really do exist rulers and ruled, 
leaders and led. The entire science and art of politics are based on 
this primordial, and (given certain general conditions) 28 irreducible 
fact. The origins of this fact are a problem apart, which will have 
to be studied separately (at least one could and should study how 
to minimise the fact and eliminate it, by altering certain conditions 
which can be identified as operating in this sense), but the fact 
remains that there do exist rulers and ruled, leaders and led. Given 
this fact, it will have to be considered how one can lead most 
effectively (given certain ends); hence how the leaders may best 
be prepared (and it is more precisely in this that the first stage of 
the art and science of politics consists); and how, on the other 
hand, one can know the lines of least resistance, or the most rational 
lines along which to proceed if one wishes to secure the obedience 
of the led or ruled. In the formation of leaders, one premiss is 
fundamental: is it the intention that there should always be rulers 
and ruled, or is the objective to create the conditions in which this 
division is no longer necessary ? In other words, is the initial premiss 
the perpetual division of the human race, or the belief that this 
division is only an historical fact, corresponding to certain conditions ? 
Yet it must be clearly understood that the division between rulers 
and ruled — though in the last analysis it has its origin in a division 
between social groups — is in fact, things being as they are, also to 
be found within the group itself, even where it is a socially homo- 
geneous one. In a certain sense it may be said that this division is 
created by the division of labour, is merely a technical fact, and 

agrarian interests, and that the interests of urban capitalism were not asserted 
before classical economics. The Physiocrats represent the break with mercantilism 
and with the guild system, and are a stage on the way to classical economics. But 
it seems to me that precisely for that reason they represent a far more complex 
future society than the one against which they are fighting, and even than the 
one which immediately derives from their affirmations. Their language is too much 
linked to their time, and expresses the immediate contrast between city and 
countryside, but it permits an expansion of capitalism into agriculture to be 
foreseen. The formula of "laissez-faire, laissez- passer", that is to say of free industry 
and free enterprise, is certainly not linked to agrarian interests. 

28 i.e. under the conditions of class society. For Gramsci's "first element" here, 
see Hegel: Philosophy of History, Dover 1956, p. 44: "The primary consideration is, 
then, the distinction between the governing and the governed . . .". 



those who see everything purely in terms of "technique", "tech- 
nical" necessity, etc., speculate on this coexistence of different 
causes in order to avoid the fundamental problem. 

Since the division between rulers and ruled exists even within the 
same group, certain principles have to be fixed upon and strictly 
observed. For it is in this area that the most serious "errors" take 
place, and that the most criminal weaknesses and the hardest to 
correct are revealed. For the belief is common that obedience must 
be automatic, once it is a question of the same group; and that not 
only must it come about without any demonstration of necessity or 
rationality being needed, but it must be unquestioning. (Some 
believe, and what is worse act in the belief, that obedience "will 
come" without being solicited, without the path which has to be 
followed being pointed out.) Thus it is difficult to cure leaders 
completely of "Cadornism" 29 or the conviction that a thing will 
be done because the leader considers it just and reasonable that it 
should be done : if it is not done, the blame is put on those who 
"ought to have . . .", etc. Thus too it is hard to root out the criminal 
habit of permitting useless sacrifices through neglect. Yet common 
sense shows that the majority of collective (political) disasters occur 
because no attempt has been made to avoid useless sacrifice, or 
because manifestly no account has been taken of the sacrifices of 
others and their lives have been gambled with. Everyone has heard 
officers from the front recount how the soldiers were quite ready to 
risk their lives when necessary, but how on the other hand they 
would rebel when they saw themselves overlooked. For example: 
a company would be capable of going for days without food because 
it could see that it was physically impossible for supplies to get 
through; but it would mutiny if a single meal was missed as a 
result of neglect or bureaucratism, etc. 

This principle extends to all actions demanding sacrifices. Hence, 
after every disaster, it is necessary first of all to enquire into the 
responsibility of the leaders, in the most literal sense. (For example : 
a front is made up of various sectors, and each sector has its leaders ; 
it is possible that the leaders of one sector are more responsible for 
a particular defeat than those of another ; but it is purely a question 
of degree — never of anybody being exempt from responsibility.) 

" Luigi Cadoma (1 850-1928) was commander-in-chief of the Italian armed 
forces until the defeat at Caporetto in 1917, for which he was held responsible. 
The war was widely unpopular by 1917, and the Italian soldiers' disaffection was 
certainly an important factor in the defeat. Cadoma was taken by Gramsci as 
the symbol of the authoritarian leader who makes no attempt to win the "consent" 
of those he is leading. 



The principle once posed that there are leaders and led, rulers 
and ruled, it is true that parties have up till now been the most 
effective way of developing leaders and leadership. (Parties may 
present themselves under the most diverse names, even calling 
themselves the anti-party or the "negation of the parties"; in 
reality, even the so-called "individualists" are party men, only 
they would like to be "party chiefs" by the grace of God or the 
idiocy of those who follow them.) 30 

Development of the general concept contained in the expression 
"State spirit". 31 This expression has a quite precise, historically 
determinate meaning. But the problem is raised: does there exist 
something similar to what is called "State spirit" in every serious 
movement, that is to say in every movement which is not the 
arbitrary expression of more or less justified individualisms ? Mean- 
while "State spirit" presupposes "continuity", either with the past, 
or with tradition, or with the future; that is, it presupposes that 
every act is a moment in a complex process, which has already 
begun and which will continue. The responsibility for this process, 
of being actors in this process, of being in solidarity with forces 
which are materially "unknown" but which nevertheless feel them- 
selves to be active and operational — and of which account is taken, 
as if they were physically "material" and present — is precisely in 
certain cases called "State spirit". It is obvious that such awareness 
of "duration" must be concrete and not abstract, that is to say 
in a certain sense must not go beyond certain limits. Let us say that 
the narrowest limits are a generation back and a generation to come. 
This represents no short period, since generations cannot be 
calculated simply as thirty years each — the last thirty and the next 
thirty respectively. They have to be calculated organically, which 

30 The fascists often described their party as an "anti-party", and Mussolini 
liked to expatiate on his own "individualism". 

81 Term used by Hegel, e.g. in his Philosophy of History : "This Spirit of a People 
is a determinate and particular Spirit, and is, as just stated, further modified by the 
degree of its historical development. This Spirit, then, constitutes the basis and 
substance of those other forms of a nation's consciousness, which have been 
noticed. ... In virtue of the original identity of their essence, purport, and object, 
these various forms are inseparably united with the Spirit of the State. Only in 
connection with this particular religion can this particular political constitution 
exist; just as in such or such a State, such or such a Philosophy or order of Art." 
Hegel, op cit., p. 53. 

The notion of a "State spirit" was adopted by fascism, see e.g. Mussolini, 
Speech to the Chamber of Deputies, 13 May 1929: "What would the State be 
if it did not have a spirit, a morality, which is what gives the strength to its laws, 
and through which it succeeds in securing the obedience of its citizens?" It is not 
entirely clear exactly what Gramsci has in mind here, when he refers to the 
"precise, historically determinate meaning" of the expression. 


at least as far as the past is concerned is easy to understand: we 
feel ourselves linked to men who are now extremely old, and who 
represent for us the past which still lives among us, which we need 
to know and to settle our accounts with, which is one of the elements 
of the present and one of the premisses of the future. We also feel 
ourselves linked to our children, to the generations which are being 
born and growing up, and for which we are responsible. (The cult 
of tradition, which has a tendentious value, is something different; 
it implies a choice and a determinate goal — that is to say, it is the 
basis for an ideology.) However, if it can be said that a "State 
spirit" in this sense is to be found in everybody, it is necessary from 
time to time to combat distortions of it or deviations from it. 

"The act for the act's sake", struggle for the sake of struggle, 
etc., and especially mean, petty individualism, which is anyway 
merely an arbitrary satisfying of passing whims, etc. (In reality, 
the question is still that of Italian "apoliticism", 32 which takes on 
these various picturesque and bizarre forms.) Individualism is 
merely brutish apoliticism; sectarianism is apoliticism, and if one 
looks into it carefully is a form of personal following [clientela], 
lacking the party spirit which is the fundamental component of 
"State spirit". The demonstration that party spirit is the basic 
component of "State spirit" is one of the most critically important 
assertions to uphold. Individualism on the other hand is a brutish 
element, "admired by foreigners", like the behaviour of the inmates 
of a zoological garden. [ 1 933] 


It has already been said that the protagonist of the new Prince 
could not in the modern epoch be an individual hero, but only the 
political party. That is to say, at different times, and in the various 
internal relations of the various nations, that determinate party 
which has the aim of founding a new type of State (and which was 
rationally and historically created for that end). 

It should be noted that in those regimes which call themselves 
totalitarian, 33 the traditional function of the institution of the 
Crown is in fact taken over by the particular party in question, 

» s See PP. pp. 1 1-12. 

83 It is important to realise that Gramsci does not use this ■word in the pejorative 
sense which it has acquired in bourgeois ideology today it is a quite neutral 
term for him, meaning approximately "all-embracing and unifying". We have 
sometimes translated it by "global". 



which indeed is totalitarian precisely in that it fulfils this function. 
Although every party is the expression of a social group, and of one 
social group only, nevertheless in certain given conditions certain 
parties represent a single social group precisely in so far as they 
exercise a balancing and arbitrating function between the interests 
of their group and those of other groups, and succeed in securing 
the development of the group which they represent with the consent 
and assistance of the allied groups — if not out and out with that of 
groups which are definitely hostile. The constitutional formula of the 
king, or president of the republic, who "reigns but does not govern" 
is the juridical expression of this function of arbitration, the concern 
of the constitutional parties not to "unmask" the Crown or the 
president. The formulae stating that it is not the head of State who 
is responsible for the actions of the government, but his ministers, 
are the casuistry behind which lies the general principle of safe- 
guarding certain conceptions — the unity of the State; the consent 
of the governed to State action — whatever the current personnel of 
the government, and whichever party may be in power. 

With the totalitarian party, these formulae lose their meaning; 
hence the institutions which functioned within the context of such 
formulae become less important. But the function itself is incor- 
porated in the party, which will exalt the abstract concept of the 
"State", and seek by various means to give the impression that it is 
working actively and effectively as an "impartial force". [1933-34: 
1st version 1930-32.] 

Is political action (in the strict sense) necessary, for one to be able 
to speak of a "political party" ? It is observable that in the modern 
world, in many countries, the organic 34 and fundamental parties 
have been compelled by the exigencies of the struggle or for other 
reasons to split into fractions — each one of which calls itself a 
"party" and even an independent party. Hence the intellectual 
General Staff of the organic party often does not belong to any of 
these fractions, but operates as if it were a directive force standing 
on its own, above the parties, and sometimes is even believed to be 
such by the public. This function can be studied with greater 
precision if one starts from the point of view that a newspaper too 
(or group of newspapers), a review (or group of reviews), is a 
"party" or "fraction of a party" or "a function of a particular 
party". Think of the role of The Times in England; or that which 

" For Gramsci's use of the term "organic", see e.g. "The Formation of the 
Intellectuals" on pp. 5-14 above. 


Corriere della Sera 35 used to have in Italy; or again of the role of the 
so-called "informational press" 36 with its claim to be "apolitical"; 
or even of that of the sporting and technical press. Moreover, the 
phenomenon reveals interesting aspects in countries where there is 
a single, totalitarian, governing party. For the functions of such a 
party are no longer directly political, but merely technical ones of 
propaganda and public order, and moral and cultural influence. 
The political function is indirect. For, even if no other legal parties 
exist, other parties in fact always do exist and other tendencies 
which cannot be legally coerced; and, against these, polemics are 
unleashed and struggles are fought as in a game of blind man's 
buff. In any case it is certain that in such parties cultural functions 
predominate, which means that political language becomes jargon. 
In other words, political questions are disguised as cultural ones, 
and as such become insoluble. 

But there is one traditional party too with an essentially "in- 
direct" character — which in other words presents itself explicitly as 
purely "educative" (lucus, etc.), 37 moral, cultural (sic). This is the 
anarchist movement. Even so-called direct (terrorist) action is 
conceived of as "propaganda" by example. This only further 
confirms the judgement that the anarchist movement is not auto- 
nomous, but exists on the margin of the other parties, "to educate 
them". One may speak of an "anarchism" inherent in every organic 
party. (What are the "intellectual or theoretical anarchists'* 
except an aspect of this "marginalism" in relation to the great 
parties of the dominant social groups?) The "economists' sect" 38 
itself was an historical aspect of this phenomenon. 

Thus there seem to be two types of party which reject the idea of 
immediate political action as such. Firstly, there is that which is 
constituted by an elite of men of culture, who have the function of 

85 The Corriere, under the editorship of Albertini (see note 74 on p. 96), had 
been built up as the principal ideological expression of the Milan industrialists, 
and the nearest thing to a national organ of the Italian bourgeoisie, prior to 
fascism. Under fascism, it was aligned with the regime, but has since reassumed 
its former role. 

** Literally nmujpapers. On Int. p. 152, Gramsci writes: "A distinction is made 
between the so-called informational or 'non-party' paper (without an explicit 
party) and the official organ of a particular party ; between the paper for the 
popular masses or 'popular' paper and that which is aimed at a necessarily 
restricted public." 

87 Locus a non lucendo: a famous example of mediaeval false etymology, meaning 
"a wood (lucus) is so called because it gives no light {lux)", i.e. the anarchists 
claim to be educators, and Gramsci suggests ironically that this is perhaps because 
they are nothing of the sort. 

" i.e. the Physiocrats in eighteenth-century France. 



providing leadership of a cultural and general ideological nature for 
a great movement of interrelated parties (which in reality are 
fractions of one and the same organic party). And secondly, in the 
more recent period, there is a type of party constituted this time 
not by an 61ite but by masses — who as such have no other political 
function than a generic loyalty, of a military kind, to a visible or 
invisible political centre. (Often the visible centre is the mechanism 
of command of forces which are unwilling to show themselves in 
the open, but only operate indirectly, through proxies and a "proxy 
ideology"). 39 The mass following is simply for "manoeuvre", and 
is kept happy by means of moralising sermons, emotional stimuli, 
and messianic myths of an awaited golden age, in which all present 
contradictions and miseries will be automatically resolved and made 
well. [1933] 

To write the history of a political party, it is necessary in reality 
to confront a whole series of problems of a much less simple kind 
than Robert Michels, 40 for example, believes — though he is con- 
sidered an expert on the subject. In what will the history of a party 
consist? Will it be a simple narrative of the internal life of a political 
organisadon? How it comes into existence, the first groups which 
constitute it, the ideological controversies through which its pro- 
gramme and its conception of the world and of b'fe are formed ? In 
such a case, one would merely have a history of certain intellectual 
groups, or even sometimes the polidcal biography of a single 
personality. The study will therefore have to have a vaster and more 
comprehensive framework. 

The history will have to be written of a particular mass of men 
who have followed the founders of the party, sustained them with 
their trust, loyalty and discipline, or cridcised them "realistically" 

88 This second type of party must refer to fascism. The first type of "party" 
is probably a reference to the role of Croce; see MS. p. 1 72 : "The party as general 
ideology, superior to the various more immediate groupings. In reality the liberal 
party in Italy after 1876 was characterised by the way in which it presented 
itself to the country as a number of national and regional fractions and groups 
'in open order'. All of the following were fractions of political liberalism: the 
liberal Catholicism of the Popular Party; nationalism (Croce was a contributor 
to Politico, the journal of A. Rocco and F. Coppola) ; the monarchist unions; 
the Republican Party; a great part of socialism; the democratic radicals: the 
conservatives; Sonnino and Salandra; Giolitti, Orlando, Nitti and Co. Croce 
was the theorist of what all these groups, grouplets, camarillos and mi fias had in 
common; the head of a central propaganda office which benefited all these groups 
and which they all made use of; the national leader of the cultural movements 
which arose to renovate the old political forms." See too "The History of Europe 
seen as 'Passive Revolution' " on pp. 118-20 above. 

40 See note 79 on p. 430. 


by dispersing or remaining passive before certain initiatives. But 
will this mass be made up solely of members of the party ? Will it be 
sufficient to follow the congresses, the votes, etc., that is to say 
the whole nexus of activities and modes of existence through which 
the mass following of a party manifests its will ? Clearly it will be 
necessary to take some account of the social group of which the 
party in question is the expression and the most advanced element. 
The history of a party, in other words, can only be the history of a 
particular social group. But this group is not isolated; it has friends, 
kindred groups, opponents, enemies. The history of any given 
party can only emerge from the complex portrayal of the totality of 
society and State (often with international ramifications too). 
Hence it may be said that to write the history of a party means 
nothing less than to write the general history of a country from a 
monographic viewpoint, in order to highlight a particular aspect of 
it. A party will have had greater or less significance and weight 
precisely to the extent to which its particular activity has been more 
or less decisive in determining a country's history. 

We may thus see that from the way in which the history of a 
party is written there emerges the author's conception of what a 
party is and should be. The sectarian will become excited over petty 
internal matters, which will have an esoteric significance for him, 
and fill him with mystical enthusiasm. The historian, though giving 
everything its due importance in the overall picture, will emphasise 
above all the real effectiveness of the party, its determining force, 
positive and negative, in having contributed to bringing certain 
events about and in having prevented other events from taking 
place. [1933-4: 1st version 1932.] 

The problem of knowing when a party was actually formed, i.e. 
undertook a precise and permanent task, gives rise to many argu- 
ments and often too, unfortunately, to a kind of conceit which is 
no less absurd and dangerous than the "conceit of nations" 43 of 
which Vico speaks. It is true that one may say that a party is never 
complete and fully-formed, in the sense that every development 
creates new tasks and functions, and in the sense that for certain 

41 "On the conceit of nations, there is a golden saying of Diodorus Siculus. 
Every nation, according to him, whether Greek or barbarian, has had the same 
conceit that it before all other nations invented the comforts of human life and 
that its remembered history goes back to the very beginning of the world." The 
New Science of Giambattista Vico, Cornell, 1968, p. 61. When Gramsci speaks of 
"party conceit" he may also have in mind a phrase of Zinoviev's at the Fourth 
World Congress, directed in particular against the PCI. Zinoviev referred to the 
danger of "Kom-tchuanstvo" = communist boastfulness or conceit. 


parties the paradox is true that they are complete and fully-formed 
only when they no longer exist — i.e. when their existence has 
become historically redundant. Thus, since every party is only the 
nomenclature for a class, it is obvious that the party which proposes 
to put an end to class divisions will only achieve complete self- 
fulfilment when it ceases to exist because classes, and therefore 
their expressions, no longer exist. But here I wish to refer to a 
particular moment of this process of development, the moment 
succeeding that in which something may either exist or not exist — in 
the sense that the necessity for it to exist has not yet become 
"imperative", but depends to a great extent on the existence of 
individuals of exceptional will-power and of exceptional will. 

When does a party become historically necessary? When the 
conditions for its "triumph", for its inevitable progress to State 
power, are at least in the process of formation, and allow their 
future evolution — all things going normally — to be foreseen. But 
when can one say, given such conditions, that a party cannot be 
destroyed by normal means? To give an answer, it is necessary 
to develop the following line of reasoning: for a party to exist, three 
fundamental elements (three groups of elements) have to converge : 

1 . A mass element, composed of ordinary, average men, whose 
participation takes the form of discipline and loyalty, rather than 
any creative spirit or organisational ability. Without these the party 
would not exist, it is true, but it is also true that neither could it 
exist with these alone. They are a force in so far as there is somebody 
to centralise, organise and discipline them. In the absence of this 
cohesive force, they would scatter into an impotent diaspora and 
vanish into nothing. Admittedly any of these elements might become 
a cohesive force, but I am speaking of them precisely at the moment 
when they are not this nor in any condition to become it — or if 
they are, it is only in a limited sphere, politically ineffectual and of 
no consequence. 

2. The principal cohesive element, which centralises nationally 
and renders effective and powerful a complex of forces which left 
to themselves would count for little or nothing. This element is 
endowed with great cohesive, centralising and disciplinary powers; 
also — and indeed this is perhaps the basis for the others — with the 
power of innovation (innovation, be it understood, in a certain 
direction, according to certain lines of force, certain perspectives, 
even certain premisses). It is also true that neither could this element 
form the party alone; however, it could do so more than could the 
first element considered. One speaks of generals without an army, 



but in reality it is easier to form an army than to form generals. So 
much is this true that an already existing army is destroyed if it 
loses its generals, while the existence of a united group of generals 
who agree among themselves and have common aims soon creates 
an army even where none exists. 

3. An intermediate element, which articulates the first element 
with the second and maintains contact between them, not only 
physically but also morally and intellectually. In reality, for every 
party there exist "fixed proportions" 42 between these three elements, 
and the greatest effectiveness is achieved when these "fixed pro- 
portions" are realised. 

In view of these considerations, it is possible to say when it is 
that a party cannot be destroyed by normal means. The second 
element must necessarily be in existence (if it is not, discussion is 
meaningless) ; its appearance is related to the existence of objective 
material conditions, even if still in a fragmented and unstable state. 
The moment when it becomes impossible to destroy a party by 
normal means is reached when the two other elements cannot help 
being formed — that is, the first element, which in its turn necessarily 
forms the third as its continuation and its means of expressing itself. 

For that to happen, the iron conviction has to have been formed 
that a particular solution of the vital problems is necessary. Without 
this conviction the second element will not be formed. This element 
can the more easily be destroyed in that it is numerically weak, but 
it is essential that if it is destroyed it should leave as its heritage a 
ferment from which it may be recreated. And where could this 
ferment better be formed and subsist than in the first and third 
elements, which, obviously, are the nearest in character to the 
second ? The activity of the second element towards creating this 
ferment is therefore fundamental. The criteria by which the 
second element should be judged are to be sought; 1. in what it 
actually does ; 2. in what provision it makes for the eventuality of its 
own destruction. It is difficult to say which of these two facts is the 
more important. Since defeat in the struggle must always be 
envisaged, the preparation of one's own successors is as important 
as what one does for victory. 

With regard to party conceit, this may be said to be worse than 
the national conceit of which Vico speaks. Why ? Because a nation 
cannot help existing; and in the fact that it exists it is always 
possible — maybe with a little goodwill and an invocation of the 

42 See "The Theorem of Fixed Proportions" on pp. 190-2. 



texts — to discover that its existence is pregnant with destiny and 
significance. A party on the other hand may not exist by virtue of 
its own strength. It should never be forgotten that, in the struggle 
between the nations, it is in the interest of each one of them that 
the other should be weakened by internal struggles — and the 
parties are precisely the elements of internal struggle. Hence it is 
always possible to pose the question of whether the parties exist by 
virtue of their own strength, as their own necessity, or whether 
rather they only exist to serve the interests of others (and indeed 
in polemics this point is never overlooked, in fact it is even a 
recurring theme, especially when the answer is not in doubt — so 
that it takes hold and creates doubts). Naturally, anybody who 
allowed himself to be torn apart by such doubts would be a fool. 
Politically the question has only an ephemeral relevance. In the 
history of the so-called principle of nationality, foreign interventions 
in favour of national parties which trouble the internal order of 
enemy States are innumerable ; so much so that when one speaks, 
for example, of Cavour's "Eastern" policy, 43 one wonders if it was 
really a question of a "policy", a permanent line of action, or not 
rather a stratagem of the moment to weaken Austria before 1859 
and 1866. Similarly, in the Mazzinian movements of the early 
eighteen-seventi'es (the Barsanti affair, for instance) 41 one can 
discern the intervention of Bismarck, who with his eyes on the war 
with France and the danger of a Franco-Italian alliance thought 
to weaken Italy through internal conflict. Similarly, in the events 
of June 19 1 4 45 some see the intervention of the Austrian General 
Staff with a view to the coming war. As can be seen, the list of 
examples is a long one, and it is essential to have clear ideas on the 
subject. Given that whatever one does one is always playing some- 
body's game, the important thing is to seek in every way to play 
one's own game with success — in other words, to win decisively. 
At all events, party conceit is to be despised, and replaced by 
concrete facts. Anyone who reinforces conceit, or prefers it to 
concrete facts, is certainly not be to taken seriously. It is un- 
necessary to add that it is essential for parties to avoid even the 
"justified" appearance of playing somebody else's game, especially 

* s i.e. The policy whereby Piedmont allied itself with England and France 
and sent troops to fight in the Crimean War against Russia (1855). 

44 On 24 May 1870 Pietro Barsanti, a Mazzinian corporal, attacked a barracks 
in Pavia with forty republican followers, shouting "Long live Rome! Long live 
the Republic! Down with the monarchy!". He was arrested and shot on 27 
August 1870. 

46 See note 33 on p. 70. 



if the somebody is a foreign State. But nobody can prevent specula- 
tions from being made. 

It is difficult to deny that all political parties (those of sub- 
ordinate as well as ruling groups) also carry out a policing function — 
that is to say, the function of safeguarding a certain political and 
legal order. If this were conclusively demonstrated, the problem 
would have to be posed in other terms; it would have to bear, in 
other words, on the means and the procedures by which such a 
function is carried out. Is its purpose one of repression or of dis- 
semination ; in other] words, does it have a reactionary or a progressive 
character? Does the given party carry out its policing function in 
order to conserve an outward, extrinsic order which is a fetter on 
the vital forces of history; or does it carry it out in the sense of 
tending to raise the people to a new level of civilisation expressed 
programmatically in its political and legal order? In fact, a law 
finds a lawbreaker : 1 . among the reactionary social elements whom 
it has dispossessed; 2. among the progressive elements whom it 
holds back; 3. among those elements which have not yet reached 
the level of civilisation which it can be seen as representing. The 
policing function of a party can hence be either progressive or 
regressive. It is progressive when it tends to keep the dispossessed 
reactionary forces within the bounds of legality, and to raise the 
backward masses to the level of the new legality. It is regressive 
when it tends to hold back the vital forces of history and to maintain 
a legality which has been superseded, which is anti-historical, 
which has become extrinsic. Besides, the way in which the party 
functions provides discriminating criteria. When the party is 
progressive it functions "democratically" (democratic centralism) ; 
when the party is regressive it functions "bureaucratically" (bureau- 
cratic centralism). The party in this second case is a simple, un- 
thinking executor. It is then technically a policing organism, and 
its name of "political party" is simply a metaphor of a mythological 
character. [1933] 

The problem arises of whether the great industrialists have a 
permanent political party of their own. It seems to me that the 
reply must be in the negative. The great industrialists utilise all the 
existing parties turn by turn, but they do not have their own party. 
This does not mean that they are in any way "agnostic" or 
"apolitical". Their interest is in a determinate balance of forces, 
which they obtain precisely by using their resources to reinforce 
one party or another in turn from the varied political checkerboard 
(with the exception, needless to say, only of the enemy party, whose 



reinforcement cannot be assisted even as a tactical move). It is 
certain, however, that if this is what happens in "normal" times, 
in extreme cases — which are those which count (like war in the life 
of a nation) — the party of the great industrialists is that of the 
landowners, who for their part do have their own permanent party. 
The exemplification of this note may be seen in England, where the 
Conservative Party has swallowed up the Liberal Party, although 
the latter had traditionally appeared to be the party of the indus- 

• The English situation, with its great Trade Unions, explains this 
fact. In England, admittedly, there does not exist formally a party 
on the grand scale which is the enemy of the industrialists. 46 But 
there do exist mass organisations of the working-class, and it has 
been noted how at certain decisive moments they transform their 
constitution from top to bottom, shattering the bureaucratic 
carapace (for example, in 1919 and 1926). On the other hand the 
landowners and the industrialists have permanent interests which 
bind them together (especially now that protectionism has become 
general, covering both agriculture and industry) ; and it is un- 
deniable that the landowners are "politically" far better organised 
than the industrialists, attract more intellectuals than they do, are 
more "permanent" in the directives they give, etc. The fate of the 
traditional "industrial" parties, like the English "liberal-radicals", 47 
the (very different) French radicals, and even the late, lamented 
"Italian radicals", 48 is of considerable interest. What did they 
represent ? A nexus of classes, great and small, rather than a single, 
great class. This is the cause of their various histories and their 
various ends. Their combat troops were provided by the petite 
bourgeoisie, which found itself in ever-changing conditions within 
the nexus until its total transformation. Today it provides the 
troops of the "demagogic parties", 49 and it is not hard to under- 
stand why this should be. 

In general it may be said that, in this history of the parties, 
comparison between different countries is highly instructive and 

46 i.e. there is no mass Communist Party. Gramsci, of course, did not consider 
the Labour Party as an enemy of the industrialists. 

47 i.e. the Liberal Party of the latter half of the nineteenth century, with its 
radical wing, and perhaps especially with reference to the period after 1 870 when 
the Radicals under Chamberlain, Dilke and Bradlaugh were republican and 
influenced by socialist ideas. 

48 The Italian Radical Party was a small offshoot of the Partita d'Azione, which 
campaigned for social legislation, notably on working conditions, in the 1880s. 
1 1 thereafter declined, and became a minor component of Giolitti's political bloc. 

4 " i.e. the fascist parties. 


indeed decisive in the search for the origin of the causes of trans- 
formation. It is true, too, of the polemics between parties in the 
"traditionalist" countries — where "remainders" are found from the 
entire historical "catalogue". 


A prime criterion for judging either conceptions of the world or, 
especially, practical stances is the following: can the conception of 
the world or the practical action in question be conceived of as 
"isolated", "independent", bearing entire responsibility for the 
collective life? Or is that impossible, and must it be conceived of 
as "integration" or perfecting of — or counterweight to — another 
conception of the world or practical attitude? Upon reflection, it 
can be seen that this criterion is decisive for an ideal judgement on 
both ideal and practical changes, and it can also be seen that it 
has no small practical implications. 

One of the commonest totems is the belief about everything that 
exists, that it is "natural" that it should exist, that it could not do 
otherwise than exist, and that however badly one's attempts at 
reform may go they will not stop life going on, since the traditional 
forces will continue to operate and precisely will keep life going on. 
There is some truth, certainly, in this way of thinking; it would be 
disastrous if there were not. All the same, beyond certain limits, 
this way of thinking becomes dangerous (certain cases of "politique 
dupire"), 51 and in any case, as has already been said, the criterion 
subsists for a philosophical, political and historical judgement. It 
is certain that, if one looks into it closely, certain movements 
conceive of themselves as being only marginal; that is, they pre- 
suppose a major movement onto which they graft themselves in 
order to reform certain presumed or real evils. In other words, 
certain movements are purely reformist. 

This principle has political importance, because the theoretical 
truth that every class has a single party is demonstrated, at the 
decisive turning-points, by the fact that various groupings, each of 
which had up till then presented itself as an "independent" party, 
come together to form a united bloc. The multiplicity which 
previously existed was purely "reformist" in character, that is to 
say it was concerned with partial questions. In a certain sense, it 

"Global" has been used here to translate "totalitari", see note 33 on p. 147. 
i.e. the idea that "the worse things get, the better that will be". 

i 5 8 


was a political division of labour (useful, within its limits) . But each 
part presupposed the other, so much so that at the decisive moments 
— in other words precisely when fundamental questions were 
brought into play — the unity was formed, the bloc came into 
existence. Hence the conclusion that in building a party, it is 
necessary to give it a "monolithic" character rather than base it on 
secondary questions; therefore, painstaking care that there should 
be homogeneity between the leadership and the rank and file, 
between the leaders and their mass following. If, at the decisive 
moments, the leaders pass over to their "true party", the rank and 
file militants are left suspended, paralysed and ineffective. One 
may say that no real movement becomes aware of its global char- 
acter all at once, but only gradually through experience — in other 
words, when it learns from the facts that nothing which exists is 
natural (in the non-habitual sense of the word), but rather exists 
because of the existence of certain conditions, whose disappearance 
cannot remain without consequences. Thus the movement perfects 
itself, loses its arbitrary, "symbiotic" traits, becomes truly inde- 
pendent, in the sense that in order to produce certain results it 
creates the necessary preconditions, and indeed devotes all its 
forces to the creation of these preconditions. [1933] 

some theoretical and practical aspects of 

Economism — theoretical movement for Free Trade — theoretical 
syndicalism. 52 It should be considered to what degree theoretical 

** Economism was defined in various ways by Lenin, especially in What is to 
be Done?, e.g. "the fundamental political tendency of Economism — let the workers 
carry on the economic struggle (it would be more correct to say the trade-unionist 
struggle, because the latter also embraces specifically working-class politics) and 
let the Marxist intelligentsia merge with the liberals for the political 'struggle'." 
Lenin opposed to economism the theory of a vanguard party which would unite 
intellectuals and workers, and bring socialist theory "from outside" to the pro- 
letariat — which in the course of its own, spontaneous activity can only develop 
"trade-union consciousness". 

By "theoretical syndicalism", Gramsci means what is in English known simply 
as "syndicalism" — the Italian word "sindacalismo" means both "syndicalism" and 
"trade-unionism". There was a strong syndicalist tradition in the Italian working- 
class, notably among the anarchists and anarcho-syndicalists. Anarchist workers 
played a leading part in many of the great industrial struggles of the war and 
immediate post-war years, especially in Turin, where Gramsci during the Ordint 
Nuovo period repeatedly attacked the sectarianism of many socialists towards 
them. On the other hand, the anarcho-syndicalist leaders, typified by Arturo 
Labriola, were politically ambiguous to say the least. Labriola was an inter- 


syndicalism derives originally from the philosophy of praxis, and 
to what degree from the economic doctrines of Free Trade — i.e. in 
the last analysis from liberalism. Hence it should be considered 
whether economism, in its most developed form, is not a direct 
descendant of liberalism, having very little connection with, the 
philosophy of praxis even in its origins — and what connection it 
had only extrinsic and purely verbal. 

From this point of view one should study the polemic between 
Einaudi and Croce over the new ( ig 1 7) preface to Croce's "Historical 
Materialism". 63 The need, spoken of by Einaudi, to take into 
account the literature of economic history inspired by English 
classical economics, may be satisfied in the following sense. The 
literature in question, through a superficial contamination with 
the philosophy of praxis, gave rise to economism; hence when 
Einaudi criticises (very imprecisely, to tell the truth) certain 
economistic degenerations, he forgets the old adage that those who 
live in glass houses should not throw stones. The nexus between 
free-trade ideology and theoretical syndicalism is particularly 
evident in Italy, where the admiration of syndicalists like Lanzillo 
& Co. for Pareto is well known. 54 The significance of the two 
tendencies, however, is very different. The former belongs to a 
dominant and directive social group ; the latter to a group which 
is still subaltern, which has not yet gained consciousness of its 
strength, its possibilities, of how it is to develop, and which therefore 
does not know how to escape from the primitivist phase. 

The ideas of the Free Trade movement are based on a theoretical 
error whose practical origin is not hard to identify; they are based 

ventionist in 1915, and although he was later an anti-fascist, many of the other 
anarcho-syndicalist leaders rallied via nationalism to fascism, in a process which 
Gramsci related to the "transformism" of the bourgeois politicians following the 
Risorgimento. (See note 8 on p. 58 and Alcuni temi.) 

a Luigi Einaudi (1874 IC /6i) was a prominent liberal politican and economist, 
who participated in the Aventine opposition to fascism in 1924 25, and who after 
the fall of fascism became Governor of the Bank of Italy, and subsequently 
President of the Republic (1948-55). Croce's Materialinno storico ed economia 
marxistica was first published in 1900, but in 19 17 Croce added a new preface 
to the third edition in which he explained his reasons for having written the book: 
what he saw as the beneficent effects of Marxism on Italian intellectual life in the 
decade 1 890-1 900, notably in its impact on historical studies. Einaudi's comments 
were published in R iforma Sociale, July-August 1918, p. 415. 

54 Agostino Lanzillo (1886 1952) was an anarcho-syndicalist, author of a book 
on Sorel, who rallied to fascism and became a member of the National Council 
of the fascist corporations in 1 93 1 . Gramsci analysed the process whereby many 
anarcho-syndicalists rallied to nationalism and fascism in his Alcuni temi. (See 
too note 8 on p. 58.) Pareto is best known today for his theory of elites, but he 
was also a prominent economist and theorist of Free Trade. 



on a distinction between political society and civil society, 55 which 
is made into and presented as an organic one, whereas in fact it is 
merely methodological. Thus it is asserted that economic activity 
belongs to civil society, and that the State must not intervene to 
regulate it. But since in actual reality civil society and State are 
one and the same, it must be made clear that laissez-faire too is a 
form of State "regulation", introduced and maintained by legis- 
lative and coercive means. It is a deliberate policy, conscious of its 
own ends, and not the spontaneous,automatic expression of economic 
facts. Consequently, laissez-faire liberalism is a political programme, 
designed to change — in so far as it is victorious — a State's leading 
personnel, and to change the economic programme of the State 
itself- — in other words the distribution of the national income. 

The case of theoretical syndicalism is different. Here we are 
dealing with a subaltern group, which is prevented by this theory 
from ever becoming dominant, or from developing beyond the 
economic-corporate stage and rising to the phase of ethical-political 
hegemony in civil society, and of domination in the State. In the 
case of laissez-faire liberalism, one is dealing with a fraction 
of the ruling class which wishes to modify not the structure of the 
State, but merely government policy; which wishes to reform the 
laws controlling commerce, but only indirectly those controlling 
industry (since it is undeniable that protection, especially in 
countries with a poor and restricted market, limits freedom of 
industrial enterprise and favours unhealthily the creation of 
monopolies). What is at stake is a rotation in governmental office 
of the ruling-class parties, not the foundation and organisation of a 
new political society, and even less of a new type of civil society. 
In the case of the theoretical syndicalist movement the problem 
is more complex. It is undeniable that in it, the independence and 
autonomy of the subaltern group which it claims to represent are 
in fact sacrificed to the intellectual hegemony of the ruling class, 
since precisely theoretical syndicalism is merely an aspect of laissez- 
faire liberalism — -justified with a few mutilated (and therefore 
banalised) theses from the philosophy of praxis. Why and how does 
this "sacrifice" come about? The transformation of the subordinate 
group into a dominant one is excluded, either because the problem 
is not even considered (Fabianism, De Man, 56 an important part 

66 See introduction to "State and Civil Society" on pp. 206-g. 

56 Henri de Man (1885 1953) was a Belgian social-democrat, author notably 
of the work of revisionism Au deli du marxisme" (ig2g). In 1934 he wrote a 
programme of peaceful transition to socialism, known as the "De Man Plan", 



of the Labour Party), or because it is posed in an inappropriate 
and ineffective form (social-democratic tendencies in general), or 
because of a belief in the possibility of leaping from class society 
directly into a society of perfect equality with a syndical economy. 

The attitude of economism towards expressions of political and 
intellectual will, action or initiative is to say the least strange — as if 
these did not emanate organically from economic necessity, and 
indeed were not the only effective expression of the economy. Thus 
it is incongruous that the concrete posing of the problem of hegemony 
should be interpreted as a fact subordinating the group seeking 
hegemony. Undoubtedly the fact of hegemony presupposes that 
account be taken of the interests and the tendencies of the groups 
over which hegemony is to be exercised, and that a certain com- 
promise equilibrium should be formed — in other words, that the 
leading group should make sacrifices of an economic-corporate 
kind. But there is also no doubt that such sacrifices and such a 
compromise cannot touch the essential; for though hegemony is 
ethical-political, it must also be economic, must necessarily be based 
on the decisive function exercised by the leading group in the 
decisive nucleus of economic activity. 

Economism appears in many other guises besides laissez-faire 
liberalism and theoretical syndicalism. All forms of electoral 
abstentionism belong to it (a typical example is the abstentionism 
of the Italian Clericals after 1870, which became ever more 
attenuated after igoo until igig and the formation of the Popular 
Party; 57 the organic distinction which the Clericals made between 
the real Italy and the legal Italy was a reproduction of the dis- 
tinction between economic world and politico-legal world); and 
there are many such forms, in the sense that there can be semi- 
abstentionism, 25 per cent abstentionism, etc. Linked with absten- 
tionism is the formula "the worse it gets, the better that will be", 
and also the formula of the so-called parliamentary "intransigence" 
of certain groups of deputies. 58 Economism is not always opposed 
to political action and to the political party, but the latter is seen 
merely as an educational organism similar in kind to a trade union. 

and was a minister from 1935 to 1938. In 1946 he was sentenced to prison for 
collaboration with the Germans during the occupation of Belgium. 

67 See notes 14 on p. 62, 73 on p. 9G and 89 on p. 102. 

68 For the "intransigents" see note 72 on p. 95 and General Introduction. 
Some of the old intransigent wing of the PSI helped to form the Communist 
Party in 1921, others remained in the "maximalist" majority faction of the PSI, 
This passage, however, seems clearly directed more specifically against Bordiga, 
his abstentionism, etc. 


One point of reference for the study of economism, and for under- 
standing the relations between structure and superstructure, is the 
passage in The Poverty of Philosophy where it says that an important 
phase in the development of a social class is that in which the 
individual components of a trade union no longer struggle solely 
for their own economic interests, but for the defence and the 
development of the organisation itself.* In this connection Engels' 
statement too should be recalled, that the economy is only the 
mainspring of history "in the last analysis" (to be found in his two 
letters on the philosophy of praxis also published in Italian) ; 61 this 
statement is to be related directly to the passage in the preface to 
the Critique of Political Economy which says that it is on the level of 
ideologies that men become conscious of conflicts in the world of 
the economy. 

At various points in these notes it is stated that the philosophy of 
praxis is far more widely diffused than is generally conceded. The 
assertion is correct if what is meant is that historical economism, 
as Professor Loria 62 now calls his more or less incoherent theories, 
is widely diffused, and that consequently the cultural environment 
has completely changed from the time in which the philosophy of 
praxis began its struggles. One might say, in Crocean terminology, 
that the greatest heresy which has grown in the womb of the 
"religion of freedom" has itself too like orthodox religion degener- 
ated, and has become disseminated as "superstition" — in other 
words, has combined with laissez-faire liberalism and produced 
economism. However, it remains to be seen whether — in contrast to 
orthodox religion, which has by now quite shrivelled up — this 
heretical superstition has not in fact always maintained a ferment 
which will cause it to be reborn as a higher form of religion; in 
other words, if the dross of superstition is not in fact easily got rid of. 

* See the exact statement. 68 The Poverty of Philosophy is an essential moment in 
the formation of the philosophy of praxis. It can be considered as a development 
of the Theses on Feuerbach, while The Holy Family an occasional work is a vaguely 
intermediate stage, as is apparent from the passages devoted to Proudhon and 
especially to French materialism. The passage on French materialism is more than 
anything else a chapter of cultural history not a theoretical passage as it is often 
interpreted as being and as cultural history it is admirable. Recall the observa- 
tion that the critique of Proudhon and of his interpretation of the Hegelian 
dialectic contained in The Poverty of the Philosophy may be extended to Gioberti 
and to the Hegelianism of the Italian moderate liberals in general. 60 The parallel 
Proudhon-Gioberti, despite the fact that they represent non-homogeneous politico- 
historical phases, indeed precisely for that reason, can be interesting and productive. 

" Poverty of Philosophy, Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1956, pp. 194-95- 

60 See note 36 on p. 399. 

61 See note 74 on p. 427. ,J See note 108 on p. 458. 


A few characteristics of historical economism: i. in the search for 
historical connections it makes no distinction between what is 
"relatively permanent" and what is a passing fluctuation, and by 
an economic fact it means the self-interest of an individual or small 
group, in an immediate and "dirty-Jewish" sense. In other words, 
it does not take economic class formations into account, with all 
their inherent relations, but is content to assume motives of mean 
and usurious self-interest, especially when it takes forms which the 
law defines as criminal ; 2. the doctrine according to which economic 
development is reduced to the course of technical change in the 
instruments of work. Professor Loria has produced a splendid 
demonstration of this doctrine in application, in his article on the 
social influence of the aeroplane published in Rassegna Contemporanea 
in 1912; 3. the doctrine according to which economic and historical 
development are made to depend directly on the changes in some 
important element of production — the discovery of a new raw 
material or fuel, etc. — which necessitate the application of new 
methods in the construction and design of machines. In recent 
times there has been an entire literature on the subject of petroleum : 
Antonio Laviosa's article in Nuova Antologia of 16 May 1929 can 
be read as a typical example. The discovery of new fuels and new 
forms of energy, just as of new raw materials to be transformed, is 
certainly of great importance, since it can alter the position of 
individual states; but it does not determine historical movement, etc. 

It often happens that people combat historical economism in the 
belief that they are attacking historical materialism. This is the 
case, for instance, with an article in the Paris Avenir of 10 October 
1930 (reproduced in Rassegna Settimanale delta Stampa Estera [Weekly 
Review of the Foreign Press] of 21 October 1930, pp. 2303-4), 
which can be quoted as typical: "We have been hearing for some 
time, especially since the war, that it is self-interest which governs 
nations and drives the world forward. It was the Marxists who 
invented this thesis, to which they give the somewhat doctrinaire 
title of 'Historical Materialism'. In pure Marxism, men taken as a 
mass obey economic necessity and not their own emotions. Politics 
is emotion; patriotism is emotion; these two imperious goddesses 
merely act as a facade in history. In reality, the history of peoples 
throughout the centuries is to be explained by a changing, con- 
stantly renewed interplay of material causes. Everything is 
economics. Many 'bourgeois' philosophers and economists have 
taken up this refrain. They pretend to be able to explain high 
international politics to us by the current price of grain, oil or 



rubber. They use all their ingenuity to prove that diplomacy is 
entirely governed by questions of custom tariffs and cost prices. 
These explanations enjoy a high esteem. They have a modicum of 
scientific appearance, and proceed from a sort of superior scepticism 
which would like to pass for the last word in elegance. Emotions in 
foreign policy? Feelings in home affairs? Enough of that! That 
stuff is all right for the common people. The great minds, the 
initiates, know that everything is governed by debits and credits. 
Now this is an absolute pseudo-truth. It is utterly false that peoples 
only allow themselves to be moved by considerations of self-interest, 
and it is entirely true that they are above all motivated by desire 
for, and ardent belief in, prestige. Anyone who does not understand 
this, does not understand anything." The article (entitled The 
Desire for Prestige) goes on to cite the examples of German and 
Italian politics, which it claims are governed by considerations of 
prestige, and not dictated by material interests. In short, it includes 
most of the more banal polemical gibes that are directed against the 
philosophy of praxis ; but the real target of the polemic is crude 
economism of Loria's kind. However, the author is not very strong in 
argument in other respects either. He does not understand that 
"feelings" may be simply a synonym for economic interests, and 
that it is difficult to maintain that political activity is a permanent 
state of raw emotion and of spasm. Indeed he himself presents 
French politics as systematic and coherent "rationality", i.e. purged 
of all emotional elements, etc. 

In its most widespread form as economistic superstition, the 
philosophy of praxis loses a great part of its capacity for cultural 
expansion among the top layer of intellectuals, however much it 
may gain among the popular masses and the second-rate intel- 
lectuals, who do not intend to overtax their brains but still wish to 
appear to know everything, etc. As Engels wrote, many people find 
it very convenient to think that they can have the whole of history 
and all political and philosophical wisdom in their pockets at little 
cost and no trouble, concentrated into a few short formulae. They 
forget that the thesis which asserts that men become conscious of 
fundamental conflicts on the level of ideology is not psychological 
or moralistic in character, but structural and epistemological; and 
they form the habit of considering politics, and hence history, as a 
continuous marche de dupes, a competition in conjuring and sleight 
of hand. "Critical" activity is reduced to the exposure of swindles, 
to creating scandals, and to prying into the pockets of public 


It is thus forgotten that since "economism" too is, or is presumed 
to be, an objective principle of interpretation (objective-scientific), 
the search for direct self-interest should apply to all aspects of 
history, to those who represent the "thesis" as well as to those who 
represent the "antithesis". Furthermore, another proposition of the 
philosophy of praxis is also forgotten: that "popular beliefs" and 
similar ideas are themselves material forces. The search for "dirty- 
Jewish" interests has sometimes led to monstrous and comical 
errors of interpretation, which have consequently reacted negatively 
on the prestige of the original body of ideas. It is therefore necessary 
to combat economism not only in the theory of historiography, but 
also and especially in the theory and practice of politics. In this 
field, the struggle can and must be carried on by developing the 
concept of hegemony — as has been done in practice in the develop- 
ment of the theory of the political party, 63 and in the actual history 
of certain political parties (the struggle against the theorv of the 
so-called Permanent Revolution — to which was counterposed the 
concept of revolutionary-democratic dictatorship; 64 the extent of 

68 By Lenin, What is to be done? etc. 

64 Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution was not really developed before 
his "Balances and Prospects" of 1906. However, in 1905 he had published a 
pamphlet called "The period up to 9 January" which was published with a 
preface by Parvus which stated that "The Revolutionary Provisional Government 
of Russia will be the government of a workers' democracy ... a coherent govern- 
ment with a social-democratic majority". This position differed both from that 
of the Menshevilis, who believed that the revolution was necessarily bourgeois 
in character and that the social-democrats should adopt an abstentionist attitude, 
and from that of the Bolsheviks, who stood precisely for a "revolutionary-demo- 
cratic dictatorship of workers and peasants". Lenin's two main texts (prior to his 
"Two Tactics of Social-Democracy") developing the latter concept: "Social-Demo- 
cracy and the Provisional Revolutionary Government", and "The Revolutionary- 
democratic Dictatorship of the Proletariat and the Peasantry" are polemics 
against the Mensheviks, but the former includes a section commending Parvus' 
text, but warning against certain errors contained in it, notably the statement that 
the revolutionary provisional government would be a Social-Democratic govern- 
ment. "This is impossible", Lenin wrote, ". . . because only a revolutionary 
dictatorship supported by the vast majority of the people can be at all durable. . . . 
The Russian proletariat, however, is at present a minority of the population in 
Russia. It can become the great, overwhelming majority only if it combines with 
the mass of semi-proletarians, semi-proprietors, i.e. with the mass of the petty- 
bourgeois urban and rural poor. Such a composition of the social basis of the 
possible and desirable revolutionary-democratic dictatorship will, of course, affect 
the composition of the revolutionary government and inevitably lead to the 
participation, or even predominance, within it of the most heterogeneous repre- 
sentatives of revolutionary democracy." The slogan of the revolutionary- 
democratic dictatorship was of course dropped by Lenin and the Bolsheviks after 
the February Revolution in 1917, but it was revived in the inner-party debates 
of the mid-twenties, especially with reference to Poland and to the Chinese 


the support given to constituentist ideologies, 65 etc.). A study could 
be made of how certain political movements were judged during 
the course of their development. One could take as a model the 
Boulangist movement (from 1886 to 1890 approximately) 66 or the 
Dreyfus trial or even the coup d'etat of 2nd December (one would 
analyse the classic work on the subject 6 ' and consider how much 
relative importance is given on the one hand to immediate economic 
factors, and on the other to the concrete study of "ideologies"). 
Confronted with these events, economism asks the question: "who 
profits directly from the initiative under consideration?", and 
replies with a line of reasoning which is as simplistic as it is fallacious : 
the ones who profit directly are a certain fraction of the ruling class. 
Furthermore, so that no mistake shall be made, the choice falls on 
that fraction which manifestly has a progressive function, controlling 
the totality of economic forces. One can be certain of not going 
wrong, since necessarily, if the movement under consideration comes 
to power, sooner or later the progressive fraction of the ruling group 
will end up by controlling the new government, and by making 
it its instrument for turning the State apparatus to its own benefit. 

This sort of infallibility, therefore, comes very cheap. It not only 
has no theoretical significance — it has only minimal political 
implications or practical efficacy. In general, it produces nothing 
but moralistic sermons, and interminable questions of personality. 
When a movement of the Boulangist type occurs, the analysis 
realistically should be developed along the following lines: 1. 
social content of the mass following of the movement; 2. what 
function did this mass have in the balance of forces — which is in 
process of transformation, as the new movement demonstrates by 
its very coming into existence? 3. what is the political and social 
significance of those of the demands presented by the movement's 
leaders which find general assent ? To what effective needs do they 
correspond? 4. examination of the conformity of the means to the 
proposed end; 5. only in the last analysis, and formulated in 
political not moralistic terms, is the hypothesis considered that such 
a movement will necessarily be perverted, and serve quite different 
ends from those which the mass of its followers expect. But economism 

* 6 i.e. the huge weight of the "mass of the petit-bourgeois urban and rural 
poor", referred to in the passage from Lenin quoted in the preceding note, in the 
existing balance of social forces in Russia. These strata had democratic or "con- 
stituentist" objectives, i.e. they wanted a Constituent Assembly and put their 
faith in constitutional reforms. See too Lenin's article "Constitutional Illusions" 
of July 1917. 66 See note 7 on p. 129. 

• 7 i.e. Marx's Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. 


puts forward this hypothesis in advance, when no concrete fact 
(that is to say, none which appears as such to the evidence of 
common sense — rather than as a result of some esoteric "scientific" 
analysis) yet exists to support it. It thus appears as a moralistic 
accusation of duplicity and bad faith, or (in the case of the move- 
ment's followers), of naivete and stupidity. Thus the political 
struggle is reduced to a series of personal affairs between on the 
one hand those with the genie in the lamp who know everything 
and on the other those who are fooled by their own leaders but are 
so incurably thick that they refuse to believe it. Moreover, until 
such movements have gained power, it is always possible to think 
that they are going to fail — and some indeed have failed (Boulangism 
itself, which failed as such and then was definitively crushed with 
the rise of the Dreyfusard movement; the movement of Georges 
Valois; that of General Gajda). 68 Research must therefore be 
directed towards identifying their strengths and weaknesses. The 
"economist" hypothesis asserts the existence of an immediate 
element of strength — i.e. the availability of a certain direct or 
indirect financial backing (a large newspaper supporting the move- 
ment is also a form of indirect financial backing) — and is satisfied 
with that. But it is not enough. In this case too, an analysis of the 
balance of forces — at all levels — can only culminate in the sphere of 
hegemony and ethico-political relations. [1933 34: 1st version 


One point which should be added as an example of the so-called 
intransigence theories is the rigid aversion on principle to what are 
termed compromises 69 — and the derivative of this, which can be 
termed "fear of dangers". It is clear that this aversion on principle 

68 Georges Valois was a French fascist thinker, who early in this century 
formed the "Cercle Proudhon", of which Sorel was a member. After the World War 
he organised a movement aimed at "national revolution", based on ex servicemen 
and inspired by Mussolini; it was equally hostile to "bolshevism" and "plutoc- 
racy". In the 'thirties he espoused a form of "convergence" theory, seeing both 
the USA and the USSR as evolving towards a highly technological, syndical 
form of society. 

General Rudolf Gajda, commander of the Czech Legion under Kolchak 
during the Civil War in Russia, discharged from the Czech army for plotting a 
military putsch in the 'twenties, formed a fascist League for Electoral Reform 
which won three seats in the 1929 elections in Czechoslovakia. When the Nazis 
entered the country, he hoped to become their puppet ruler, but they no doubt 
mistrusted his nationalist past since his hopes were frustrated. 

89 In his comments on "intransigents" (see note 58 on p. 161) Gramsci often 
appears, as here, to be referring also — or even especially — to the positions of 
Amadeo Bordiga (see General Introduction). Bordiga was among those com 
munists criticised in Lenin's Left wing Communism an infantile disorder, whose 
eighth chapter was entitled, ironically, "No compromises?". 


to compromise is closely linked to economism. For the conception 
upon which the aversion is based can only be the iron conviction 
that there exist objective laws of historical development similar in 
kind to natural laws, together with a belief in a predetermined 
teleology like that of a religion: since favourable conditions are 
inevitably going to appear, and since these, in a rather mysterious 
way, will bring about palingenetic events, it is evident that any 
deliberate initiative tending to predispose and plan these conditions 
is not only useless but even harmful. Side by side with these fatalistic 
beliefs however, there exists the tendency "thereafter" to rely 
blindly and indiscriminately on the regulatory properties of armed 
conflict. Yet this too is not entirely without its logic and its con- 
sistency, since it goes with a belief that the intervention of will is 
useful for destruction but not for reconstruction (already under way 
in the very moment of destruction). Destruction is conceived of 
mechanically, not as destruction/reconstruction. In such modes of 
thinking, no account is taken of the "time" factor, nor in the last 
analysis even of "economics". For there is no understanding of the 
fact that mass ideological factors always lag behind mass economic 
phenomena, and that therefore, at certain moments, the automatic 
thrust due to the economic factor is slowed down, obstructed or 
even momentarily broken by traditional ideological elements — 
hence that there must be a conscious, planned struggle to ensure 
that the exigencies of the economic position of the masses, which 
may conflict with the traditional leadership's policies, are under- 
stood. An appropriate political initiative is always necessary to 
liberate the economic thrust from the dead weight of traditional 
policies — i.e. to change the political direction of certain forces 
which have to be absorbed if a new, homogeneous politico-economic 
historical bloc, without internal contradictions, is to be successfully 
formed. And, since two "similar" forces can only be welded into 
a new organism either through a series of compromises or by force 
of arms, either by binding them to each other as allies or by forcibly 
subordinating one to the other, the question is whether one has the 
necessary force, and whether it is "productive" to use it. If the 
union of two forces is necessary in order to defeat a third, a recourse 
to arms and coercion (even supposing that these are available) can 
be nothing more than a methodological hypothesis ; the only concrete 
possibility is compromise. Force can be employed against enemies, 
but not against a part of one's own side which one wishes rapidly 
to assimilate, and whose "good will" and enthusiasm one needs. 
[ r 933-34 : Ist version 1932.] 




Another point which needs to be defined and developed is the "dual 
perspective" 70 in political action and in national life. The dual 
perspective can present itself on various levels, from the most 
elementary to the most complex; but these can all theoretically be 
reduced to two fundamental levels, corresponding to the dual nature 

70 As explained in the following passage, this notion means for Gramsci the 
dialectical unity of the moments of force and consent in political action. The term 
"doppia prospettiva" goes back to the Fifth World Congress of the Comintern. 
The Congress followed a long series of defeats for the revolution internationally, 
culminating in the German October of 1923. Zinoviev, who had succeeded in 
placing his proteges Fischer and Maslov at the head of the German Party and in 
laying the blame for the defeat at the door of Brandler, who was ousted from the 
leadership, was anxious to present the entire episode as not being of critical 
importance, and the German revolution as still being on the cards in the immediate 
future. Trotsky and Radek were arguing that the European bourgeoisie was 
moving in the direction of a "labourist" resolution of its post-war political crisis, 
witness events in England and France. Under Zinoviev's guidance, the Congress 
in effect adopted a compromise solution, allowing both for the imminence of 
revolution and for a generalisation of the "labourist" solution. Section XIII of 
the Theses on Tactics was entitled "Two Perspectives". It stated : 

"The epoch of international revolution has commenced. The rate of its develop- 
ment as a whole or partially, the rate of development of revolutionary events in 
any particular continent or in any particular country, cannot be foretold with 
precision. The whole situation is such that two perspectives are open: (a) a 
possible slow and prolonged development of the proletarian revolution, and (b) 
on the other hand, that the ground under capitalism has been mined to such an 
extent and that the contradictions of capitalism as a whole have developed so 
rapidly, that the solution in one country or another may come in the not distant 

"The Comintern must base its tactics upon the possibility of both perspectives. 
The manoeuvres of the Comintern must be so arranged as to be able rapidly to 
adapt oneself to the changing rate of development, and in any case even with a 
prolonged rate of development of events, to remain the irreconcilable mass 
Communist Party of proletarian revolution which attracts the masses and trains 
them for the revolutionary struggle." 

This dual perspective continued to characterise Comintern strategy in the 
following years ; Zinoviev reaffirmed it, for instance, at the Sixth Plenum in early 
1926. Although its original formulation by Zinoviev was due to mainly tactical 
considerations, Gramsci seems to have continued to see it as preferable to the 
"right" line of 1926 28 and the "left" line of the Third Period, and to have felt 
that its directives could be generalised for all periods when "frontal attack" was 
not immediately possible. According to Athos Lisa (see General Introduction), 
Gramsci spoke of the "two perspectives" during the discussions which took place 
among the prisoners at Turi. He said that of the two, the more likely was that of 
some form of transitional stage intervening between the fall of fascism and the 
dictatorship of the proletariat, and that the party's tactics should take this into 
account. On the other hand, his criticisms here of those who "have reduced the 
theory of the 'dual perspective' to . . . nothing but two forms of 'immediacy', 
etc." are directed against any strategy which separates the moment of force from 
the moment of consent. 



of Machiavelli's Centaur 71 — half-animal and half-human. They are 
the levels of force and of consent, authority and hegemony, 
violence and civilisation, of the individual moment and of the 
universal moment ("Church" and "State"), of agitation and of 
propaganda, of tactics and of strategy, etc. Some have reduced the 
theory of the "dual perspective" to something trivial and banal, to 
nothing but two forms of "immediacy" which succeed each other 
mechanically in time, with greater or less "proximity". In actual 
fact, it often happens that the more the first "perspective" is 
"immediate" and elementary, the more the second has to be 
"distant" (not in time, but as a dialectical relation), complex and 
ambitious. In other words, it may happen as in human life, that the 
more an individual is compelled to defend his own immediate 
physical existence, the more will he uphold and identify with the 
highest values of civilisation and of humanity, in all their com- 
plexity. [1933-34: 1st version 1931-32.] 

It is certain that prediction only means seeing the present and the 
past clearly as movement. Seeing them clearly: in other words, 
accurately identifying the fundamental and permanent elements of 

71 "You should understand, therefore, that there are two ways of fighting: 
by law or by force. The first way is natural to men, and the second to beasts. But 
as the first way often proves inadequate one must needs have recourse to the 
second. So a prince must understand how to make a nice use of the beast and 
the man. The ancient writers taught princes about this by an allegory, when they 
described how Achilles and many other princes of the ancient world were sent to 
be brought up by Chiron, the centaur, so that he might train them his way. All 
the allegory means, in making the teacher half beast and half man, is that a 
prince must know how to act according to the nature of both, and that he cannot 
survive otherwise." Machiavelli, TkePrince, Penguin, 1961, p. 99. See too NM. pp. 
1 2 1-2: "Guicciardini's assertion that two things are absolutely necessary for the 
life of a State: arms and religion. Guicciardini's formula can be translated by 
various other, less drastic formulae: force and consent; coercion and persuasion; 
State and Church ; political society and civil society ; politics and morality (Croce's 
ethical political history) ; law and freedom; order and self-discipline; or (with an 
implicit judgement of somewhat libertarian flavour) violence and fraud. In any 
case, in the political conception of the Renaissance, religion was consent and the 
Church was civil society, the hegemonic apparatus of the ruling group. For the 
latter did not have its own apparatus, i.e. did not have its own cultural and 
intellectual organisation, but regarded the universal ecclesiastical organisation as 
being that. The only way in which this differed from the Middle Ages was the fact 
that religion was openly conceived of and analysed as an instrumentum regni. It is 
from this point of view that the Jacobin attempt to institute a cult of the 'Supreme 
Being' should be studied. This appears to be an attempt to create an identity 
between State and civil society; to unify in a dictatorial way the constitutive 
elements of the State (in the organic, wider sense of the State proper -f- civil 
society), in a desperate endeavour to keep a hold on all of popular and national 
life. But it appears too as the first root of the modern lay State, independent of 
the Church, which seeks and finds in itself, in its own complex life, all the elements 
of its historical personality." 



the process. But it is absurd to think of a purely "objective" pre- 
diction. Anybody who makes a prediction has in fact a "pro- 
gramme" for whose victory he is working, and his prediction is 
precisely an element contributing to that victory. This does not 
mean that prediction need always be arbitrary and gratuitous, or 
simply tendentious. Indeed one might say that only to the extent 
to which the objective aspect of prediction is linked to a programme 
does it acquire its objectivity: 1. because strong passions are 
necessary to sharpen the intellect and help make intuition more 
penetrating ; 2. because reality is a product of the application of 
human will to the society of things (the machine-operator's to his 
machine); therefore if one excludes all voluntarist elements, or if 
it is only other people's wills whose intervention one reckons as an 
objective element in the general interplay of forces, one mutilates 
reality itself. Only the man who wills something strongly can 
identify the elements which are necessary to the realisation of his will. 

Hence to believe that one particular conception of the world, 
and of life generally, in itself possesses a superior predictive capacity 
is a crudely fatuous and superficial error. Certainly a conception of 
the world is implicit in every prediction, and therefore whether the 
latter is a random series of arbitrary notions or a rigorous and 
coherent vision is not without its importance; but it precisely 
acquires that importance in the living brain of the individual who 
makes the prediction, and who by the strength of his will makes it 
come true. This can be clearly seen in the case of predictions made 
by people who claim to be "impartial" : they are full of idle specula- 
tion, trivial detail, and elegant conjectures. When a particular 
programme has to be realised, it is only the existence of somebody 
to "predict" it which will ensure that it deals with what is essential — 
with those elements which, being "organisable" and susceptible of 
being directed or deflected, are in reality alone predictable. This is 
in contrast with the habitual way of looking at the problem. For it 
is generally thought that every act of prediction presupposes the 
determination of laws of regularity similar to those of the natural 
sciences. But since these laws do not exist in the absolute or mech- 
anical sense that is imagined, no account is taken of the will of 
others, nor is its application "predicted". Consequently everything 
is built on an arbitrary hypothesis and not on reality. [1933] 

"Too much" (therefore superficial and mechanical) political 
realism often leads to the assertion that a statesman should only 
work within the limits of "effective reality"; that he should not 
interest himself in what "ought to be" but only in what "is". This 



would mean that he should not look farther than the end of his own 
nose. This misunderstanding led Paolo Treves to see in Guicciardini 
rather than in Machiavelli the "true politician". 72 

A distinction must be made not only between "diplomat" and 
"politician", but also between political scientist and active politician. 
The diplomat inevitably will move only within the bounds of 
effective reality, since his specific activity is not the creation of 
some new equilibrium, but the maintenance of an existing equili- 
brium within a certain juridical framework. Similarly, the political 
scientist has to keep within the bounds of effective reality in so far 
as he is merely a scientist. But Machiavelli is not merely a scientist: 
he is a partisan, a man of powerful passions, an active politician, 
who wishes to create.a new balance of forces and therefore cannot 
help concerning himself with what "ought to be" (not of course in 
a moralistic sense). Hence the question cannot be posed in these 
terms, it is more complex. It is one, that is to say, of seeing whether 
what "ought to be" is arbitrary or necessary; whether it is concrete 
will on the one hand or idle fancy, yearning, daydream on the other. 
The active politician is a creator, an initiator; but he neither 
creates from nothing nor does he move in the turbid void of his 
own desires and dreams. He bases himself on effective reality, but 
what is this effective reality? Is it something static and immobile, 
or is it not rather a relation of forces in continuous motion and shift 
of equilibrium ? If one applies one's will to the creation of a new 
equilibrium among the forces which really exist and are operative — 
basing oneself on the particular force which one believes to be 
progressive and strengthening it to help it to victory — one still 
moves on the terrain of effective reality, but does so in order to 
dominate and transcend it (or to contribute to this). What "ought 
to be" is therefore concrete; indeed it is the only realistic and 
historicist interpretation of reality, it alone is history in the making 
and philosophy in the making, it alone is politics. 

The opposition between Savonarola and Machiavelli is not an 
opposition between what is and what ought to be (Russo's whole 
paragraph on this point is pure belles-lettres),' 13 but one between two 

" Gramsci is referring to the article II realismo politico di Francesco Guicciardini, in 
Nuova Rivista Storica, November/December 1930. See too "Economic-Corporate 
Phase of the State" on p. 173. Guicciardini (1483 1540) was a Florentine diplomat 
and historian, a friend of Machiavelli's and often contrasted with him; he was 
an altogether more conservative figure. See too note 90 on p. 193. 

** Russo, op. cit,, see note 3 on p. 125. He wrote: "Savonarola is pure religion, 
Machiavelli science, technique, pure politics." For Savonarola, see note 1 7 on 
p. 135- 



concepts of what ought to be : the abstract and phantasmagorical 
concept of Savonarola, and the realistic concept of Machiavelli — 
realistic even if it did not in feet become direct reality, since one 
cannot expect an individual or a book to change reality but only 
to interpret it and to indicate the possible lines of action. Machiavelli 
was limited or narrow only in as much as he was a "private indivi- 
dual", a writer, and not the leader of a State or an army; the latter 
too is a single individual, but has at his disposal the forces of his 
State or army and not merely armies of words. But one cannot 
therefore say that Machiavelli himself was a "prophet unarmed" 
too: it would be too easy a witticism. Machiavelli never says that 
he has any thought or intention of himself changing reality — only 
of showing concretely how the historical forces ought to have acted 
in order to be effective. [1933-34: 1st version 1931-32.] 


Guicciardini represents a step backwards in political science with 
respect to Machiavelli. This is all that Guicciardini's greater 
"pessimism" means. Guicciardini regressed to a purely Italian 
political thought, whereas Machiavelli had attained a European 
thought. It is impossible to understand Machiavelli without taking 
into account the fact that he subsumed Italian experience into 
European (in his day synonymous with international) experience: 
his "will" would have been Utopian, were it not for the European 
experience. The same conception of "human nature" thus becomes 
different in the two cases. Machiavelli's "human nature" embraces 
"European man", who in France and Spain has effectively trans- 
cended the phase of the break-up of feudalism by means of the 
system of absolute monarchy: hence the creation of a unitary 
absolute monarchy in Italy is prevented not by "human nature" 
but by transitory conditions which the will can overcome. Machia- 
velli is "pessimistic" (or better realistic) when he regards men, and 
the motives of their actions: Guicciardini is not pessimistic, but 
sceptical and petty. Paolo Treves* commits a host of errors in his 
judgement of Guicciardini and Machiavelli; he does not make a 
clear distinction between "politics" and "diplomacy", and it is 
precisely this which is the cause of his mistaken evaluations. In 
politics, in fact, will has a far greater importance than in diplomacy. 
Diplomacy sanctions, and tends to conserve, situations created by 

* See I Irealismo politico di Francesco Guicciardini, inNuova Rivista Storica, November/ 
December 1930. 



the clash of policies of different States; it is only creative meta- 
phorically, or by philosophical convention ("all human activity is 
creative"). International relations deal with a balance of forces in 
which any single State component has only a very limited weight. 
Florence, for instance, might have had a certain weight if it had 
become stronger; but such a growth of its strength, even if it had 
improved its position in the Italian and European balance of forces, 
certainly could not have been thought of as decisive for a wholesale 
transformation of the balance itself. Therefore diplomacy, through 
the very habits of the profession, tends to scepticism and to con- 
servative narrowness of mind. 

In the internal relations of a State, the situation is incomparably 
more favourable to central initiative, to what Machiavelli under- 
stood as a will to command. De Sanctis' judgement of Guicciardini 
is far more realistic than Treves thinks. 74 It should be asked why 
De Sanctis was better prepared than Treves to provide this 
historically and scientifically more accurate judgement. De Sanctis 
participated in a creative moment of Italian political history, a 
moment in which the effectiveness of the political will — turned to 
awakening new and original forces rather than merely to calculating 
on the traditional ones, which were seen as incapable of being 
developed and reorganised (Guicciardinesque political scepticism) — 
had revealed all its potentiality not only in the art of founding a 
State from within, but also in that of mastering international 
relations, rejuvenating the professional and customary methods of 
diplomacy (with Cavour). The cultural atmosphere was propitious 
to a more comprehensively realistic conception of the science and 
art of politics. But, supposing there had not been this atmosphere, 
would it have been impossible for De Sanctis to understand Machia- 
velli ? The atmosphere provided by the historical moment enriches 
De Sanctis' essays with a sentimental pathos which renders the 
argument more sympathetic and moving, the scientific exposition 
more artistically expressive and captivating; but the logical, 
political-scientific content could have been thought out even in 
periods of blackest reaction. Is not reaction too perhaps a constructive 
act of will? And is not conservation a deliberate act? Why then 
should Machiavelli's will be "Utopian", and why revolutionary and 
not Utopian the will of someone who wants to conserve what exists, 
and to prevent the creation and organisation of new forces which 
would disturb and transform the traditional equilibrium? Political 

De Sanctis condemned Guicciardini's "egoism" see note go on p. 19,3. 


science abstracts the element "will", and does not take account of 
the end to which a particular will is applied. The attribute ' 'utopian" 
does not apply to political will in general, but to specific wills which 
are incapable of relating means to end, and hence are not even 
wills, but idle whims, dreams, longings, etc. 

Guicciardini's scepticism (not pessimism of the intelligence, which 
can be combined with an optimism of the will in active and realistic 
politicians) 76 has other sources: i. diplomatic habit: i.e. the habit 
of a subordinate, subaltern activity (executive-bureaucratic) which 
has to accept a will (the political will of the diplomat's government 
or sovereign) which is extraneous to the diplomat's individual 
convictions. (He may, it is true, feel it as his own, in so far as it is 
in line with his own convictions: but he may also not do so. The 
fact that diplomacy has of necessity become a specialised profession 
has led to this consequence, of allowing the diplomat to become 
independent of the policies of changing governments, etc.). The 
result is scepticism and, in scientific discussion, extra-scientific 
prejudices; 2. the actual convictions of Guicciardini, who, in the 
general context of Italian politics, was a conservative, and hence 
theorises his own opinions, his own political position, etc. 

Guicciardini's writings are more of a period piece than they are 
political science, and that is De Sanctis' judgement. Just as Paolo 
Treves' work too is more of a period piece than it is history of 
political science. [1930-32] 


The study of how "situations" should be analysed, in other words 
how to establish the various levels of the relations of force, offers an 
opportunity for an elementary exposition of the science and art of 
politics — understood as a body of practical rules for research and of 
detailed observations useful for awakening an interest in effective 
reality and for stimulating more rigorous and more vigorous 

75 See PP. p. 6 : "On daydreams and fantasies. They show lack of character 
and passivity. One imagines that something has happened to upset the mechanism 
of necessity. One's own initiative has become free. Everything is easy. One can 
do whatever one wants, and one wants a whole series of things which at present 
one lacks. It is basically the present turned on its head which is projected into the 
future. Everything repressed is unleashed. On the contrary, it is necessary to 
direct one's attention violently towards the present as it is, if one wishes to trans- 
form it. Pessimism of the intelligence, optimism of the will." [1932] Romain 
Rolland's maxim "Pessimism of the intelligence, optimism of the will" was made 
by Gramsci into something of a programmatic slogan as early as 1919, in the pages 
of Ordine Nuovo. 



political insights. This should be accompanied by the explanation 
of what is meant in politics by strategy and tactics, by strategic 
"plan", by propaganda and agitation, by command structure 76 or 
science of political organisation and administration. 

The elements of empirical observation which are habitually 
included higgledy-piggledy in works of political science (G. Mosca's 
Elementi di scienza politico may be taken as typical) ought, in so far 
as they are not abstract and illusory, to be inserted into the context 
of the relations of force, on one level or another. These levels range 
from the relations between international forces (one would insert 
here the notes written on what a great power is, on the combinations 
of States in hegemonic systems, and hence on the concept of inde- 
pendence and sovereignty as far as small and medium powers are 
concerned) 77 to the objective relations within society — in other 
words, the degree of development of productive forces ; to relations 
of political force and those between parties (hegemonic systems 
within the State) ; and to immediate (or potentially military) political 

Do international relations precede or follow (logically) funda- 
mental social relations? There can be no doubt that they follow. 
Any organic innovation in the social structure, through its technical- 
military expressions, modifies organically absolute and relative 
relations in the international field too. Even the geographical 
position of a national State does not precede but follows (logically) 
structural changes, although it also reacts back upon them to a 
certain extent (to the extent precisely to which superstructures react 
upon the structure, politics on economics, etc.). However, inter- 
national relations react both passively and actively on political 
relations (of hegemony among the parties). The more the immediate 
economic life of a nation is subordinated to international relations, 
the more a particular party will come to represent this situation 
and to exploit it, with the aim of preventing rival parties gaining 
the upper hand (recall Nitti's famous speech on the technical im- 
possibility of revolution in Italy). From this series of facts one may 
conclude that often the so-called "foreigner's party" 78 is not really 

" Organica has no exact equivalent in English it means the organisation of 
armed forces, their division into different arms and corps, theirsystem of ranks, etc. 
" See NM. pp. 141 and 167 fF. 

'* Term used especially of communist parties by the nationalist Right, and, in 
an earlier period, of parties influenced by the ideas of the French Revolution. 
The latter Mazzini's Action Party is a good example — did in fact often have 
links with liberals in other countries. 



the one which is commonly so termed, but precisely the most 
nationalistic party — which, in reality, represents not so much the 
vital forces of its own country, as that country's subordination and 
economic enslavement to the hegemonic nations or to certain of 
their number.* [1933-34: 1st version 1931-32.] 

It is the problem of the relations between structure and super- 
structure which must be accurately posed and resolved if the forces 
which are active in the history of a particular period are to be 
correctly analysed, and the relation between them determined. Two 
principles must orient the discussion: 1. that no society sets itself 
tasks for whose accomplishment the necessary and sufficient con- 
ditions do not either already exist or are not at least beginning to 
emerge and develop; 2. that no society breaks down and can be 
replaced until it has first developed all the forms of life which are 
implicit in its internal relations.** From a reflection on these two 
principles, one can move on to develop a whole series of further 
principles of historical methodology. Meanwhile, in studying a 
structure, it is necessary to distinguish organic movements (relatively- 
permanent) from movements which may be termed "conjuncturaP' 
(and which appear as occasional, immediate, almost accidental). 79 
Conjunctural phenomena too depend on organic movements to be 
sure, but they do not have any very far-reaching historical sig- 
nificance; they give rise to political criticism of a minor, day-to-day- 
character, which has as its subject top political leaders and person- 
alities with direct governmental responsibilities. Organic phenomena 

* An allusion to this international element which "represses" domestic energies 
can be found in G. Volpe's articles published in Corriere della Sera, on 22 and 23 
March 1932. 

** "No social order ever perishes before all the productive forces for which 
there is room in it have developed; and new, higher relations of production never 
appear before the material conditions for their existence have matured in the 
womb of the old society. Therefore mankind always sets itself only such tasks as 
it can solve; since, looking at the matter more closely, it will always be found that 
the task itself arises only when the material conditions for its solution already 
exist or are at least in the process of formation." Marx, Preface to the Critique of 
Political Economy. 

79 On PP. pp. 148-49 Gramsci wrote: "The conjuncture can be defined as the 
set of circumstances which determine the market in a given phase, provided that 
these are conceived of as being in movement, i.e. as constituting a process of 
ever-changing combinations, a process which is the economic cycle ... In Italian 
the meaning of 'favourable or unfavourable economic situation {occasions)' remains 
attached to the word 'conjuncture'. Difference between 'situation' and 'con- 
juncture' : the conjuncture is the set of immediate and ephemeral characteristics 
of the economic situation . . . Study of the conjuncture is thus more closely linked 
to immediate politics, to 'tactics' and agitation, while the 'situation' relates to 
'strategy' and propaganda, etc." 

i 7 8 


on the other hand give rise to socio-historical criticism, whose 
subject is wider social groupings — beyond the public figures and 
beyond the top leaders. When an historical period comes to be 
studied, the great importance of this distinction becomes clear. A 
crisis occurs, sometimes lasting for decades. This exceptional 
duration means that incurable structural contradictions have 
revealed themselves (reached maturity), and that, despite this, the 
political forces which are struggling to conserve and defend the 
existing structure itself are making every effort to cure them, 
within certain limits, and to overcome them. These incessant and 
persistent efforts (since no social formation will ever admit that it 
has been superseded) form the terrain of the "conjunctural", and 
it is upon this terrain that the forces of opposition organise. These 
forces seek to demonstrate that the necessary and sufficient con- 
ditions already exist to make possible, and hence imperative, the 
accomplishment of certain historical tasks (imperative, because any 
falling short before an historical duty increases the necessary 
disorder, and prepares more serious catastrophes). (The demon- 
stration in the last analysis only succeeds and is "true" if it becomes 
a new reality, if the forces of opposition triumph ; in the immediate, 
it is developed in a series of ideological, religious, philosophical, 
political, and juridical polemics, whose concreteness can be estimated 
by the extent to which they are convincing, and shift the previously 
existing disposition of social forces.) 

A common error in historico-political analysis consists in an 
inability to find the correct relation between what is organic and 
what is conjunctural. This leads to presenting causes as immediately 
operative which in fact only operate indirectly, or to asserting that 
the immediate causes are the only effective ones. In the first case 
there is an excess of "cconomism", or doctrinaire pedantry; in the 
second, an excess of "ideologism". In the first case there is an 
overestimation of mechanical causes, in the second an exaggeration 
of the voluntarist and individual element. The distinction between 
organic "movements" and facts and "conjunctural" or occasional 
ones must be applied to all types of situation; not only to those in 
which a regressive development or an acute crisis takes place, but 
also to those in which there is a progressive development or one 
towards prosperity, or in which the productive forces are stagnant. 
The dialectical nexus between the two categories of movement, and 
therefore of research, is hard to establish precisely. Moreover, if 
error is serious in historiography, it becomes still more serious in 
the art of politics, when it is not the reconstruction of past history 



but the construction of present and future history which is at stake.* 
One's own baser and more immediate desires and passions are the 
cause of error, in that they take the place of an objective and 
impartial analysis — and this happens not as a conscious "means" 
to stimulate to action, but as self-deception. In this case too the 
snake bites the snake-charmer — in other words the demagogue is 
the first victim of his own demagogy. 

These methodological criteria will acquire visibly and didactically 
their full significance if they are applied to the examination of 
concrete historical facts. This might usefully be done for the events 
which took place in France from 1789 to 1870. It seems to me that 
for greater clarity of exposition it is precisely necessary to take in 
the whole of this period. In fact, it was only in 1870-71, with the 
attempt of the Commune, that all the germs of 1 789 were finally 
historically exhausted. It was then that the new bourgeois class 
struggling for power defeated not only the representatives of the 
old society unwilling to admit that it had been definitively super- 
seded, but also the still newer groups who maintained that the new 
structure created by the 1 789 revolution was itself already outdated; 
by this victory the bourgeoisie demonstrated its vitality vis-d-vis 
both the old and the very new. 

Furthermore, it was in 1870-71 that the body of principles of 
political strategy and tactics engendered in practice in 1 789, and 
developed ideologically around '48, lost their efficacy. (I am referring 
to those which can be resumed in the formula of "Permanent 
Revolution"; it would be interesting to study how much of this 
formula passed into Mazzini's strategy — for example, in the Milan 
insurrection of 1853 — and whether this happened consciously or 
not.) One piece of evidence for the correctness of this point of view 
is the fact that historians are by no means of one mind (and it is 
impossible that they should be) in fixing the limits of the group 

* Failure to consider the immediate moment of "relations of force" is linked to 
residues of the vulgar liberal conception of which syndicalism is a manifestation 
which thought itself more advanced when in reality it was taking a step backward. 
In fact the vulgar liberal conception, stressing relations between political forces 
organised in the various forms of party (newspaper readerships, parliamentary 
and local elections, the mass organisations of parties and trade unions in the 
strict sense), was more advanced than syndicalism, which gave primordial 
importance to the fundamental socio-economic relation and only to that. The 
vulgar liberal conception took implicit account of this socio-economic relation 
too (as many signs clearly indicate), but it insisted besides on the relation of 
political forces which was an expression of the former and in reality contained 
it. These residues of the vulgar liberal conception can be traced in a whole 
series of works purporting to be connected with the philosophy of praxis, and have 
given rise to infantile forms of optimism and folly. 



of events which constitutes the French Revolution. For some 
(Salvemini, for instance) the Revolution was complete at Valmy: 
France had created its new State and had shown itself capable of 
organising the politico-military force necessary to assert and to 
defend its territorial sovereignty. For others the Revolution con- 
tinues until Thermidor — indeed they speak of various revolutions 
(10 August 80 is a separate revolution, etc.).* The interpretation of 
Thermidor and of the work of Napoleon provokes the sharpest 
disagreements. Was it revolution or counter-revolution? For others 
the history of the Revolution continues until 1830, 1848, 1870 and 
even until the World War of 191 4. All these views are partially 
true. In reality the internal contradictions which develop after 1 789 
in the structure of French society are resolved to a relative degree 
only with the Third Republic; and France has now enjoyed sixty 
years of stable political life only after eighty years of convulsions 
at ever longer intervals: 1789, 1794, 1799) 1804, 1815, 1830, 1848, 
1870. It is precisely the study of these "intervals" of varying frequency 
which enables one to reconstruct the relations on the one hand 
between structure and superstructure, and on the other between 
the development of organic movement and conjunctural movement 
in the structure. One might say in the meantime that the dialectical 
mediation between the two methodological principles formulated at 
the beginning of this note is to be found in the historico-political 
formula of Permanent Revolution. 

The question of so-called relations of force is an aspect of the 
same problem. One often reads in historical narratives the generic 
expression: "relation of forces favourable, or unfavourable, to this 
or that tendency". Thus, abstractly, this formulation explains 
nothing, or almost nothing — since it merely repeats twice over the 
fact which needs to be explained, once as a fact and once as an 
abstract law and an explanation. The theoretical error consists 
therefore in making what is a principle of research and interpretation 
into an "historical cause". 

Meanwhile, in the "relation of forces" various moments or levels 
must be distinguished, and they are fundamentally the following: 

1 . A relation of social forces which is closely linked to the structure, 
objective, independent of human will, and which can be measured 
with the systems of the exact or physical sciences. The level of 
development of the material forces of production provides a basis 
for the emergence of the various social classes, each one of which 

*° On 10 August 1792 the Tuileries Palace was stormed and the Monarchy fell. 
* See La Revolution fraTyaise by A. Mathiez, in the A. Colin series. 



represents a function and has a specific position within production 
itself. This relation is what it is, a refractory reality: nobody can 
alter the number of firms or their employees, the number of cities 
or the given urban population, etc. By studying these fundamental 
data it is possible to discover whether in a particular society there 
exist the necessary and sufficient conditions for its transformation — 
in other words, to check the degree of realism and practicability of 
the various ideologies which have been born on its own terrain, on 
the terrain of the contradictions which it has engendered during 
the course of its development. 

2. A subsequent moment is the relation of political forces; in 
other words, an evaluation of the degree of homogeneity, self- 
awareness, and organisation attained by the various social classes. 
This moment can in its turn be analysed and differentiated into 
various levels, corresponding to the various moments of collective 
political consciousness, as they have manifested themselves in 
history up till now. The first and most elementary of these is the 
economic-corporate level: a tradesman feels obliged to stand by 
another tradesman, a manufacturer by another manufacturer, etc., 
but the tradesman does not yet feel solidarity with the manu- 
facturer; in other words, the members of the professional group are 
conscious of its unity and homogeneity, and of the need to organise 
it, but in the case of the wider social group this is not yet so. A 
second moment is that in which consciousness is reached of the 
solidarity of interests among all the members of a social class — but 
still in the purely economic field. Already at this juncture the 
problem of the State is posed — but only in terms of winning politico- 
juridical equality with the ruling groups: the right is claimed to 
participate in legislation and administration, even to reform these — 
but within the existing fundamental structures. A third moment is 
that in which one becomes aware that one's own corporate interests, 
in their present and future development, transcend the corporate 
limits of the purely economic class, and can and must become the 
interests of other subordinate groups too. This is the most purely 
political phase, and marks the decisive passage from the structure 
to the sphere of the complex superstructures; it is the phase in 
which previously germinated ideologies become "party", come into 
confrontation and conflict, until only one of them, or at least a 
single combination of them, tends to prevail, to gain the upper 
hand, to propagate itself throughout society — bringing about not 
only a unison of economic and political aims, but also intellectual 
and moral unity, posing all the questions around which the struggle 



rages not on a corporate but on a "universal" plane, and thus 
creating the hegemony of a fundamental social group over a series 
of subordinate groups. It is true that the State is seen as the organ 
of one particular group, destined to create favourable conditions for 
the latter's maximum expansion. But the development and expansion 
of the particular group are conceived of, and presented, as being the 
motor force of a universal expansion, of a development of all the 
"national" energies. In other words, the dominant group is coordin- 
ated concretely with the general interests of the subordinate groups, 
and the life of the State is conceived of as a continuous process of 
formation and superseding of unstable equilibria (on the juridical 
plane) between the interests of the fundamental group and those of 
the subordinate groups — equilibria in which the interests of the 
dominant group prevail, but only up to a certain point, i.e. stopping 
short of narrowly corporate economic interest. 

In real history these moments imply each other reciprocally — 
horizontally and vertically, so to speak — i.e. according to socio- 
economic activity (horizontally) and to country (vertically), 
combining and diverging in various ways. Each of these com- 
binations may be represented by its own organised economic and 
political expression. It is also necessary to take into account the 
fact that international relations intertwine with these internal 
relations of nation-states, creating new, unique and historically 
concrete combinations. A particular ideology, for instance, born in 
a highly developed country, is disseminated in less developed 
countries, impinging on the local interplay of combinations.* This 
relation between international forces and national forces is further 
complicated by the existence within every State of several structur- 
ally diverse territorial sectors, with diverse relations of force at all 
levels (thus the Vendee 81 was allied with the forces of international 
reaction, and represented them in the heart of French territorial 
unity; similarly Lyons in the French Revolution represented a 
particular knot of relations, etc.). 

* Religion, for example, has always been a source of such national and inter- 
national ideological-political combinations, and so too have the other international 
organisations Freemasonry, Rotarianism, the Jews, career diplomacy. These 
propose political solutions of diverse historical origin, and assist their victory in 
particular countries — functioning as international political parties which operate 
within each nation with the full concentration of the international forces. A 
religion, freemasonry, Rotary, Jews, etc., can be subsumed into the social category 
of "intellectuals", whose function, on an international scale, is that of mediating 
the extremes, of "socialising" the technical discoveries which provide the impetus 
for all activities of leadership, of devising compromises between, and ways out of, 
extreme solutions. si See note 47 on p. 79. 


3. The third moment is that of the relation of military forces, 
which from time to time is directly decisive. (Historical development 
oscillates continually between the first and the third moment, with 
the mediation of the second.) But this too is not undifferentiated, 
nor is it susceptible to immediate schematic definition. Here too, 
two levels can be distinguished: the military level in the strict or 
technical military sense, and the level which may be termed politico- 
military. In the course of history these two levels have appeared in 
a great variety of combinations. A typical example, which can 
serve as a limiting case, is the relation involved in a State's military 
oppression of a nation seeking to attain its national independence. 
The relation is not purely military, but politico-military; indeed 
this type of oppression would be inexplicable if it were not for the 
state of social disintegration of the oppressed people, and the 
passivity of the majority among them ; consequently independence 
cannot be won with purely military forces, it requires both military 
and politico-military. If the oppressed nation, in fact, before 
embarking on its struggle for independence, had to wait until the 
hegemonic State allowed it to organise its own army in the strict 
and technical sense of the word, it would have to wait quite a while. 
(It may happen that the claim to have its own army is conceded 
by the hegemonic nation, but this only means that a great part of 
the struggle has already been fought and won on the politico- 
military terrain.) The oppressed nation will therefore initially 
oppose the dominant military force with a force which is only 
"politico-military", that is to say a form of political action which 
has the virtue of provoking repercussions of a military character in 
the sense: 1. that it has the capacity to destroy the war potential of 
the dominant nation from within; 2. that it compels the dominant 
military force to thin out and disperse itself over a large territory, 
thus nullifying a great part of its war potential. In the Italian 
Risorgimento the disastrous absence of politico-military leadership 
may be noted, especially in the Action Party (through congenital 
incapacity), but also in the Piedmontese Moderate Party, both 
before and after 1848, not to be sure through incapacity but 
through "politico-economic Malthusianism" — in other words, 
because they were unwilling even to hint at the possibility of an 
agrarian reform, and because they had no desire to see a national 
constituent assembly convoked, but merely waited for the Piedmont 
monarchy, free from any conditions or limitations of popular origin, 
to extend its rule to the whole of Italy — sanctioned only by regional 


A further question connected with the foregoing is whether the 
fundamental historical crises are directly determined by economic 
crises. The answer is contained implicitly in the foregoing para- 
graphs, where problems have been considered which are only 
another way of presenting the one now under consideration. 
Nevertheless it is still necessary, for didactic reasons, given the 
particular public which is being aimed at, to examine each of the 
ways in which a single question may present itself as if it were a 
new and independent problem. It may be ruled out that immediate 
economic crises of themselves produce fundamental historical events; 
they can simply create a terrain more favourable to the dissemina- 
tion of certain modes of thought, and certain ways of posing and 
resolving questions involving the entire subsequent development of 
national life. Moreover, all assertions concerning periods of crisis 
or of prosperity may give rise to unilateral judgements. In his 
historical outline of the French Revolution, Mathiez, in opposition 
to the vulgar traditional history which aprioristically "discovers" a 
crisis coinciding with every major rupture of social equilibrium, 
asserts that towards 1789 the economic situation was in an imme- 
diate sense rather good, so that it cannot be said that the downfall 
of the absolute State was due to a crisis of impoverishment. It 
should be observed that the State was in the throes of a mortal 
financial crisis and considering which of the privileged social orders 
would have to bear the sacrifices and burdens necessary for the 
State and Royal finances to be put back in order. Furthermore, if 
the economic position of the bourgeoisie was nourishing, the 
situation of the popular classes was certainly not good either in the 
towns or, especially, on the land — where they suffered from endemic 
poverty. In any case, the rupture of the equilibrium of forces did 
not occur as the result of direct mechanical causes — i.e. the im- 
poverishment of the social group which had an interest in breaking 
the equilibrium, and which did in fact break it. It occurred in the 
context of conflicts on a higher plane than the immediate world of 
the economy; conflicts related to class "prestige" (future economic 
interests), and to an inflammation of sentiments of independence, 
autonomy and power. The specific question of economic hardship 
or well-being as a cause of new historical realities is a partial aspect 
of the question of the relations of force, at the various levels. 
Changes can come about either because a situation of well-being 
is threatened by the narrow self-interest of a rival class, or because 
hardship has become intolerable and no force is visible in the old 
society capable of mitigating it and of re-establishing normality by 


legal means. Hence it may be said that all these elements are the 
concrete manifestation of the conjunctural fluctuations of the totality 
of social relations of force, on whose terrain the passage takes place 
from the latter to political relations of force, and finally to the 
military relation which is decisive. 

If this process of development from one moment to the next is 
missing — and it is essentially a process which has as its actors men 
and their will and capability — the situation is not taken advantage 
of, and contradictory outcomes are possible : either the old society 
resists and ensures itself a breathing-space, by physically exter- 
minating the elite of the rival class and terrorising its mass reserves ; 
or a reciprocal destruction of the conflicting forces occurs, and a 
peace of the graveyard is established, perhaps even under the 
surveillance of a foreign guard. [1933-34: 1st version 1930—32.] 

But the most important observation to be made about any 
concrete analysis of the relations of force is the following: that such 
analyses cannot and must not be ends in themselves (unless the 
intention is merely to write a chapter of past history) , but acquire 
significance only if they serve to justify a particular practical activity, 
or initiative of will. They reveal the points of least resistance, at 
which the force of will can be most fruitfully applied ; they suggest 
immediate tactical operations; they indicate how a campaign of 
political agitation may best be launched, what language will best 
be understood by the masses, etc. The decisive element in every 
situation is the permanently organised and long-prepared force 
which can be put into the field when it is judged that a situation is 
favourable (and it can be favourable only in so far as such a force 
exists, and is full of fighting spirit). Therefore the essential task is 
that of systematically and patiently ensuring that this force is 
formed, developed, and rendered ever more homogeneous, compact, 
and self-aware. This is clear from military history, and from the 
care with which in every period armies have been prepared in 
advance to be able to make war at any moment. The great Powers 
have been great precisely because they were at all times prepared 
to intervene effectively in favourable international conjunctures — 
which were precisely favourable because there was the concrete 
possibility of effectively intervening in them. [1933-34: 1st version 


i . As political and economic forms develop historically, a new type 
of functionary is increasingly being produced — what could be 


described as "career" functionaries, technically trained for bureau- 
cratic work (civil and military). This is a fact of prime significance for 
political science, and for any history of the forms taken by the State. 
Has this process been a necessary one, or, as the "pure" liberals 
claim, a degeneration in respect of the ideal of self-government? 82 
Certainly every type of society and State has had its own problem 
of functionaries, which it has formulated and resolved in its own 
way; every society has had its own system of selection, and its own 
type of functionary to be trained. The reconstruction of how all 
these elements have evolved is of capital importance. The problem 
of functionaries partly coincides with that of the intellectuals. 
However, though it is true that every new form of society and 
State has required a new type of functionary, it is also true that 
new ruling groups have never been able, at least initially, to ignore 
tradition or established interests — i.e. the categories of functionary 
(especially in the ecclesiastical and military spheres) who already 
existed and had been constituted before they came to power. Unity 
of manual and intellectual work, and closer links between legislative 
and executive power (so that elected functionaries concern them- 
selves not merely with the control of State affairs but also with their 
execution), may be motives of inspiration for a new approach in 
solving the problem of the intellectuals as well as the problem of 

2. Connected with the question of the bureaucracy and its 
"optimum" organisation is the debate about so-called "organic 

•* Gramsci gives the English term in parenthesis in his original text. He appears 
to mean by it the phenomenon whereby, notably in England, certain functions 
elsewhere carried out by the State are devolved onto formally autonomous local 
bodies or institutions. On PP. pp. 163-64, in the note "Self-government e burocrazia", 
Gramsci writes: "Self -government is an institution or a political and administrative 
usage which presupposes quite specific conditions: the existence of a social stratum 
which lives off rent, which by tradition is experienced in public affairs, and 
enjoys a certain prestige among the popular masses for its rectitude and impartiality 
(and also for certain psychological qualities, such as its ability to exercise authority 
with dignified firmness, but without haughtiness or arrogant detachment). It is 
thus understandable that self-government has only been possible in England, 
where the class of landowners, in addition to its condition of economic inde- 
pendence, had never been in savage conflict with the population (as happened 
in France) and had not had great corporate military traditions (as in Germany), 
with the separateness and the authoritarian attitude which derive from these. 
Change of meaning of self-government in non-Anglo Saxon countries: struggle 
against the centralism of the high government bureaucracy, but institutions 
entrusted to a bureaucracy controlled directly from below. Bureaucracy become 
necessity: the question must be raised of forming an honest and impartial bureau- 
cracy, which does not abuse its function to make itself independent of the control 
of the representative system. It can be said that every form of society has its 
approach or solution to the problem of bureaucracy, these must inevitably vary." 


centralism" and "democratic centralism" (which despite its name 
has nothing to do with abstract democracy, in as much as the 
French Revolution and Third Republic developed form of organic 
centralism unknown either to the absolute monarchy or to Napoleon 
I). 83 One will have to seek out and study the real economic and 
political relations which find their organisational form, their 
articulation and their functionality in the various manifestations of 
organic and democratic centralism in all fields : in State life (unitary 
State, federation, union of federated States, federation of States or 
federal State, etc.); in interstate life (alliances, various forms of 

83 On "organic centralism", see NM. p. 113: "So-called 'organic centralism' 
is based on the principle that a political group is selected by 'cooptation' around an 
'infallible bearer of truth', one who is 'enlightened by reason', who has found the 
infallible natural laws of historical evolution, infallible even if only in the long 
term, and if present events 'seem' to disprove them." And NM. pp. 157 58: 
"A collective organism is made up of single individuals, who form the organism 
in as much as they have given themselves, and actively accept, a particular 
hierarchy and leadership. If each of the individual members sees the collective 
organism as an entity external to himself, it is evident that this organism no longer 
in fact exists, it becomes a phantasm of the mind, a fetish . . . What is astonishing, 
and typical, is that fetishism of this kind occurs too in 'voluntary' organisms, not 
of a 'public' or State character, like parties and trade unions. The tendency is to 
see the relationship between the individual and the organism as a dualism; it is 
towards an external, critical attitude of the individual towards the organism (if 
the attitude does not consist of an enthusiastic, acritical admiration). In any case 
a fetishistic relationship. The individual expects the organism to act, even if he 
does not do anything himself, and does not reflect that precisely because his 
attitude is very widespread, the organism is necessarily inoperative. Furthermore, 
it should be recognised that, since a deterministic and mechanical conception of 
history is very widespread (a common-sense conception which is related to the 
passivity of the great popular masses), each individual, seeing that despite his 
non-intervention something still does happen, tends to think that there indeed 
exists, over and above individuals, a phantasmagorical being, the abstraction of the 
collective organism, a kind of autonomous divinity, which does not think with any 
concrete brain but still thinks, which does not move with specific human legs 
but still moves, etc. 

"It might seem that certain ideologies, such as that of present-day idealism (Ugo 
Spirito's), which identify the individual and the State, ought to re-educate the 
individual consciousness ; but it does not seem that this in fact happens, because 
this identification is merely verbal and verbalistic. The same can be said of every 
form of so-called 'organic centralism', which is based on the presupposition — true 
only at exceptional moments, when popular passions are aflame — that the relation- 
ship between ruler and ruled is determined by the fact that the rulers satisfy the 
interests of the ruled and thus 'must' have their consent, i.e. the individual must 
identify with the whole — which (whatever the organism involved) is represented 
by the rulers." See too PP. pp. 65-66. It should also be noted that Bordiga and 
the Left in 1925 26, and notably in their theses for the Congress of Lyons, had 
spoken of the need for the Comintern and the individual communist parties to 
"realize an organic centralism", and had counterposed this to existing party 
practice and in particular to bolshevisation. However, it is clear that Gramsci 
uses the concept of "organic centralism" as a general category of political organisa- 
tion, as in this passage with reference to the French Revolution and the Third 



international political "constellation") ; in the life of political and 
cultural associations (Freemasonry, Rotary Club, Catholic Church) 
and of trade-union and economic ones (cartels, trusts) ; in the same 
country, in different countries, etc. 

Polemics from the past (pre- 19 14) on the subject of German 
predominance in the life of high culture, and in that of certain 
international political forces: was this predominance in fact real, 
and in what did it really consist? 84 It may be said: (a) that no 
organic or disciplinary bonds ensured this supremacy, which was 
therefore merely a phenomenon of abstract cultural influence and 
of highly unstable prestige; (b) that such cultural influence in no 
way affected real activity, which was on the contrary fragmented, 
localised, and without overall direction. Thus one cannot speak of 
any kind of centralism here — neither organic nor democratic, nor 
of any other kind, nor a mixture of these. The influence was felt 
and experienced by a handful of intellectual groups, who had no 
links with the popular masses; and it was precisely the absence of 
any such links which characterised the situation. Nevertheless, such 
a state of affairs is worth studying, since it helps to explain the 
process which led to the formulation of the theories of organic 
centralism. These are precisely a one-sided and intellectualistic 
critique of that disorder and dispersal of forces. 

Meanwhile, it is necessary to distinguish among the theories of 
organic centralism. One the one hand there are those which conceal 
a precise programme of real predominance of one part over the 
whole (whether the part consists of a stratum such as the intel- 
lectuals, or of a "privileged" territorial group). On the other there 
are those which are purely and simply the one-sided perspectives of 
sectarians or fanatics, and which, although capable of concealing 
a programme of predominance (usually of a single individual, such 
as the infallible Pope — whereby Catholicism has become trans- 
formed into a sort of cult of the Pope), do not seem in the immediate 
consciously to conceal any such programme. The most accurate 
name would be bureaucratic centralism. "Organicity" can only be 
found in democratic centralism, which is so to speak a "centralism" 
in movement — i.e. a continual adaptation of the organisation to the 
real movement, a matching of thrusts from below with orders from 
above, a continuous insertion of elements thrown up from the 
depths of the rank and file into the solid framework of the leadership 

84 Presumably a reference to the influence of Hegel and German idealism on the 
Italian idealists (Croce and Gentile), and to that of the German Social-Democratic 
Party within the Second International. 


apparatus which ensures continuity and the regular accumulation 
of experience. Democratic centralism is "organic" because on the 
one hand it takes account of movement, which is the organic mode 
in which historical reality reveals itself, and does not solidify 
mechanically into bureaucracy; and because at the same time it 
takes account of that which is relatively stable and permanent, or 
which at least moves in an easily predictable direction, etc. This 
element of stability within the State is embodied in the organic 
development of the leading group's central nucleus, just as happens 
on a more limited scale within parties. The prevalence of bureau- 
cratic centralism in the State indicates that the leading group is 
saturated, that it is turning into a narrow clique which tends to 
perpetuate its selfish privileges by controlling or even by stifling 
the birth of oppositional forces — even if these forces are homogeneous 
with the fundamental dominant interests (e.g. in the ultra-protec- 
tionist systems struggling against economic liberalism). In parties 
which represent socially subaltern classes, the element of stability 
is necessary to ensure that hegemony will be exercised not by 
privileged groups but by the progressive elements — organically 
progressive in relation to other forces which, though related and 
allied, are heterogeneous and wavering. 

In any case, it needs to be stressed that the unhealthy manifesta- 
tions of bureaucratic centralism occurred because of a lack of 
initiative and responsibility at the bottom, in other words because 
of the political immaturity of the peripheral forces, even when these 
were homogeneous with the hegemonic territorial group (pheno- 
menon of Piedmontism 86 in the first decades of Italian unity). The 
creation of such situations can be extremely damaging and dangerous 
in international bodies (League of Nations). 

Democratic centralism offers an elastic formula, which can be 
embodied in many diverse forms; it comes alive in so far as it is 
interpreted and continually adapted to necessity. It consists in the 
critical pursuit of what is identical in seeming diversity of form 
and on the other hand of what is distinct and even opposed in 
apparent uniformity, in order to organise and interconnect closely 
that which is similar, but in such a way that the organising and the 
interconnecting appear to be a practical and "inductive" necessity, 
experimental, and not the result of a rationalistic, deductive, 
abstract process — i.e. one typical of pure intellectuals (or pure 
asses). This continuous effort to separate out the "international" 

85 The transposition of Piedmontese institutions wholesale to the other Italian 
regions after the unification of the country. 


and "unitary" element in national and local reality is true concrete 
political action, the sole activity productive of historical progress. 
It requires an organic unity between theory and practice, between 
intellectual strata and popular masses, between rulers and ruled. 
The formulae of unity and federation lose a great part of their 
significance from this point of view, whereas they retain their sting 
in the bureaucratic conception, where in the end there is no unity 
but a stagnant swamp, on the surface calm and "mute", and no 
federation but a "sack of potatoes", 86 i.e. a mechanical juxta- 
position of single "units" without any connection between them. 
[ I 933-34= ist version 1932.] 


This theorem can usefully be employed to clarify — and to bring 
out the general applicability of — many propositions concerning the 
science of organisations (the study of the administrative apparatus, 
of demographic composition, etc.) and also concerning general 
politics (in analyses of situations or of relations of force, in the 
problem of the intellectuals, etc.). Of course it must always be borne 
in mind that a recourse to the theory of fixed proportions has only 
a schematic and metaphoric value. In other words, it cannot be 
applied mechanically, since in human collectivities the qualitative 
element (or that of the technical and intellectual capacity of the 
individual components) is predominant, and this cannot be measured 
mathematically. Hence one may say that every human collectivity 
has its own specific optimum principle of fixed proportions. 

The science of organisations in particular can usefully have 
recourse to this theorem, and this becomes apparent in the case of 
the army. But every form of society has its own type of army, and 
every type of army has its own principle of fixed proportions, 
which moreover also changes from one arm of the service or 
specialised corps to the next. There is a specific relation between 
privates, NCOs, subalterns, junior officers, senior officers, General 

86 In The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, Marx had written: "Each 
individual peasant family is almost self-sufficient; it itself directly produces the 
major part of its consumption and thus acquires its means of life more through 
exchange with nature than in intercourse with society. A smallholding, a peasant 
and his family; alongside them another smallholding, another peasant and another 
family. Afew score of these make up a village, and a few score of villages make up a 
Department. In this way, the great mass of the French nation is formed by simple 
addition of homologous magnitudes, much as potatoes in a sack form a sack of 
potatoes." MarxjEngels Selected Works, Moscow 1958, Vol. I, p. 334. 

87 See p. 191. 


Staff, Combined General Staff, etc. There is a relation between the 
various arms and corps among themselves, etc. Each change in a 
single part necessitates a new equilibrium with the whole, etc. 

The theorem can be seen in application politically in parties, 
trade unions or factories. It is also possible to see how each social 
group has its own law of fixed proportions, which varies according 
to the level of its culture, independence of mind, spirit of initiative 
and sense of responsibility, and according to the degree of discipline 
of its most backward and peripheral members. 

The law of fixed proportions is resumed by Pantaleoni in his 
Principles of Pure Economics: 88 "Bodies combine chemically only in 
fixed proportions, and any quantity of an element which is in 
excess of the quantity required for a combination with other 
elements, which are themselves present in the amounts as defined, 
remains free; if the quantity of an element is insufficient in relation 
to the quantities of the other elements present, the combination 
can only take place to the extent to which the quantity of the 
element which is present in a smaller quantity than the others 
suffices." One might make use of this law metaphorically to under- 
stand how a "movement" or current of opinion becomes a party — 
i.e. a political force which is effective from the point of view of the 
exercise of governmental power: precisely to the extent to which 
it possesses (has developed within itself) cadres at the various levels, 
and to the extent to which the latter have acquired certain capa- 
bilities. The historical "automatism" of certain premisses (the 
existence of certain objective conditions) is potentialised politically 
by parties and by men of ability: absence or inadequacy (quan- 
titative and qualitative) of these neutralises the "automatism" 
itself (which anyway is not really automatic) : the premisses exist 
abstractly, but the consequences are not realised because the 
human factor is missing. Hence parties may be said to have the 
task of forming capable leaders; they are the mass function which 
selects, develops, and multiplies the leaders which are necessary if 
a particular social group (which is a "fixed" quantity, since it can 
be established how many members there are of any social group) is 
to become articulated, and be transformed from turbulent chaos 
into an organically prepared political army. When the total vote 
for a particular party oscillates between apparently strange and 
arbitrary maximums and minimums in successive elections, whether 
at the same level or at different levels (for instance, in pre-Hitler 

88 Maffeo Pantaleoni, Principi di economia pura, Milan 1931. 



Germany, elections for the President of the Republic, for the 
Reichstag, for the diets of the Lander, for the communal councils, 
and so on right down to the factory committees), it may be deduced 
that that party's cadres are inadequate both in quantity and 
quality, or else in quantity though not in quality (relatively), or 
else in quality though not in quantity. A party which wins a lot of 
votes in local elections, but fewer in those of greater political 
importance, is certainly qualitatively deficient in its central leader- 
ship : it possesses numerous, or at any rate sufficient, junior cadres, 
but not a General Staff adequate for that country and its position 
in the world, etc. [1933-34: 1st version 1932.] 


One of the most banal commonplaces which get repeated against 
the elective system of forming State organs is the following: that in 
it numbers decide everything, 89 and that the opinions of any idiot 
who knows how to write (or in some countries even of an illiterate) 
have exactly the same weight in determining the political course of 
the State as the opinions of somebody who devotes his best energies 
to the State and the nation, etc.* But the fact is that it is not true, 
in any sense, that numbers decide everything, nor that the opinions 
of all electors are of "exactly" equal weight. Numbers, in this case 
too, are simply an instrumental value, giving a measure and a 
relation and nothing more. Ajid what then is measured? What is 
measured is precisely the effectiveness, and the expansive and 
persuasive capacity, of the opinions of a few individuals, the active 
minorities, the elites, the avant-gardes, etc. — i.e. their rationality, 
historicity or concrete functionality. Which means it is untrue that 
all individual opinions have "exactly" equal weight. Ideas and 
opinions are not spontaneously "born" in each individual brain: 
they have had a centre of formation, of irradiation, of dissemination, 
of persuasion — a group of men, or a single individual even, which 
has developed them and presented them in the political form of 

88 See, for example, Mussolini "The war was 'revolutionary' in the sense that 
it liquidated in rivers of blood the century of democracy, the century of number, 
of majority, of quantity", in Which way is the world going?, 1922; or again, "Fascism 
is against democracy which levels the people down to the largest number, bringing 
it down to the level of the majority", in T he Doctrine of Fascism, 1932. 

* There are numerous formulations of this, some more felicitous than the one 
quoted which is due to Mario de Silva, in Critica Fascista, 15 August 1932. But 
the content is always the same. 



current reality. The counting of "votes" is the final ceremony of a 
long process, in which it is precisely those who devote their best 
energies to the State and the nation (when such they are) who carry 
the greatest weight. If this hypothetical group of worthy men, 
notwithstanding the boundless material power which they possess, 
do not have the consent of the majority, they must be judged either 
as inept, or as not representative of "national" interests — which 
cannot help being decisive in inflecting the national will in one 
direction rather than in another. "Unfortunately" everyone tends 
to confound his own "private interest" 90 with that of the nation, 
and hence to find it "dreadful", etc. that it should be the "law of 
numbers" which decides; it is better of course to become an elite 
by decree. Thus it is not a question of the people who "have the 
brains" feeling that they are being reduced to the level of the 
lowest illiterate, but rather one of people who think they are the 
ones with the brains wanting to take away from the "man in the 
street" even that tiniest fraction of power of decision over the 
course of national life which he possesses. 

These banal assertions have been extended from a critique (of 
oligarchic rather than elitist origin) 91 of the parliamentary system 
of government (it is strange that it should not be criticised because 
the historical rationality of numerical consensus is systematically 
falsified by the influence of wealth) to a critique of all representative 
systems — even those which are not parliamentary and not fashioned 
according to the canons of formal democracy. 92 These assertions 
are even less accurate. In these other systems of government, the 
people's consent does not end at the moment of voting, quite the 
contrary. That consent is presumed to be permanently active; so 
much so that those who give it may be considered as "functionaries" 
of the State, and elections as a means of voluntary enrolment of 
State functionaries of a certain type — a means which in a certain 
sense may be related to the idea of self-government (though on a 
different level) . Since elections are held on the basis not of vague, 
generic programmes, but of programmes of immediate, concrete 
work, anyone who gives his consent commits himself to do some- 
thing more than the simple, juridical citizen towards their realisa- 

,0 The Italian word here is "parliculare", a term used by Guicciardini, who 
suggested that the best refuge from the trials of public life was one's own "parti- 
culart" or private interest. De Sanctis criticised this "egoism". 

81 i.e. of conservative origin (concerned to restrict political power to a traditional 
ruling stratum Mosca's "political class"), rather than elitist in the strict sense 
of the word (elite = chosen) i.e. meritocratic, Pareto, fascist ideology, etc.) 

02 i.e, presumably, Soviets 



tion — i.e. to be a vanguard of active and responsible work. The 
"voluntary" element in the whole undertaking could not be stimul- 
ated in any other way as far as the broader masses are concerned; 
and when these are not made up of amorphous citizens, but of 
skilled productive elements, then one can understand the importance 
that the demonstration of the vote may have.* [i 933-34] 

The proposition that society does not pose itself problems for 
whose solution the material preconditions do not already exist. 93 
This proposition immediately raises the problem of the formation 
of a collective will. In order to analyse critically what the proposition 
means, it is necessary to study precisely how permanent collective 
wills are formed, and how such wills set themselves concrete short- 
term and long-term ends — i.e. a line of collective action. It is a 
question of more or less long processes of development, and rarely 
of sudden, "synthetic" explosions. Synthetic "explosions" do occur, 
but if they are looked at closely it can be seen that they are more 
destructive than reconstructive; they remove mechanical and 
external obstacles in the way of an indigenous and spontaneous 
development. Thus the Sicilian Vespers 94 can be taken as typical. 

It would be possible to study concretely the formation of a 
collective historical movement, analysing it in all its molecular 
phases — a thing which is rarely done, since it would weigh every 
treatment down. Instead, currents of opinion are normally taken as 
already constituted around a group or a dominant personality. 
This is the problem which in modern times is expressed in terms of 
the party, or coalition of related parties : how a party is first set 
up, how its organisational strength and social influence are developed, 
etc. It requires an extremely minute, molecular process of exhaustive 
analysis in every detail, the documentation for which is made up 
of an endless quantity of books, pamphlets, review and newspaper 
articles, conversations and oral debates repeated countless times, 
and which in their gigantic aggregation represent this long labour 
which gives birth to a collective will with a certain degree of 
homogeneity — -with the degree necessary and sufficient to achieve 
an action which is coordinated and simultaneous in the time and 
the geographical space in which the historical event takes place. 

Importance of Utopias and of confused and rationalistic ideologies 

* These observations could be developed more amply and organically, stressing 
other differences as well between the various types of elective systems, according 
to changes in general social and political relations: the relation between elected 
and career functionaries, etc. 

** See note 98 on p. 106. 

" See note 102 on p. 199. 


in the initial phase of the historical processes whereby collective 
wills are formed. Utopias, or abstract rationalism, have the same 
importance as old conceptions of the world which developed 
historically by the accumulation of successive experience. What 
matters is the criticism to which such an ideological complex is 
subjected by the first representatives of the new historical phase. 
This criticism makes possible a process of differentiation and change 
in the relative weight that the elements of the old ideologies used 
to possess. What was previously secondary and subordinate, or even 
incidental, is now taken to be primary — becomes the nucleus of a 
new ideological and theoretical complex. The old collective will 
dissolves into its contradictory elements since the subordinate ones 
develop socially, etc. 

After the formation of the party system — an historical phase 
linked to the standardisation of broad masses of the population 
(communications, newspapers, big cities, etc.) — the molecular 
processes take place more swiftly than in the past, etc. [1931-32] 


An aspect of the question alluded to elsewhere of "Dilettantism 
and Discipline", 85 from the point of view of the organising centre 
of a grouping is that of the "continuity" which tends to create a 
"tradition" — understood of course in an active and not a passive 
sense: as continuity in continuous development, but "organic 
development". This problem contains in a nutshell the entire 
"juridical problem", i.e. the problem of assimilating the entire 
grouping to its most advanced fraction; it is a problem of education 
of the masses, of their "adaptation" in accordance with the require- 
ments of the goal to be achieved. This is precisely the function of 
law in the State and in society; through "law" the State renders 
the ruling group "homogeneous", and tends to create a social 
conformism which is useful to the ruling group's line of development. 
The general activity of law (which is wider than purely State and 
governmental activity and also includes the activity involved in 
directing civil society, in those zones which the technicians of law 
call legally neutral — i.e. in morality and in custom generally) 
serves to understand the ethical problem better, in a concrete sense. 
In practice, this problem is the correspondence "spontaneously and 
freely accepted" between the acts and the admissions of each indivi- 

See Int., pp. 139-41. 



dual, between the conduct of each individual and the ends which 
society sets itself as necessary — a correspondence which is coercive 
in the sphere of positive law technically understood, and is spon- 
taneous and free (more strictly ethical) in those zones in which 
"coercion" is not a State affair but is effected by public opinion, 
moral climate, etc. The "juridical" continuity of the organised 
centre must be not of a Byzantine/Napoleonic type, i.e. according 
to a code conceived of as perpetual, but Roman/Anglo-Saxon — 
that is to say, a type whose essential characteristic consists in its 
method, which is realistic and always keeps close to concrete life 
in perpetual development. This organic continuity requires a good 
archive, well stocked and easy to use, in which all past activity can 
be reviewed and "criticised". The most important manifestations of 
this activity are not so much "organic decisions" as explicative and 
reasoned (educative) circulars. 

There is a danger of becoming "bureaucratised", it is true; but 
every organic continuity presents this danger, which must be 
watched. The danger of discontinuity, of improvisation, is still 
greater. Organ: the "Bulletin", which has three principal sections: 
i. directive articles; 2. decisions and circulars; 3. criticism of the 
past, i.e. continual reference back from the present to the past, to 
show the differentiations and the specifications, and to justify them 
critically. [1930-32] 


The term "spontaneity" can be variously defined, for the pheno- 
menon to which it refers is many-sided. Meanwhile it must be 
stressed that "pure" spontaneity does not exist in history: it would 
come to the same thing as "pure" mechanicity. In the "most 
spontaneous" movement it is simply the case that the elements of 
"conscious leadership" cannot be checked, have left no reliable 
document. It may be said that spontaneity is therefore characteristic 
of the "history of the subaltern classes", and indeed of their most 
marginal and peripheral elements; these have not achieved any 
consciousness of the class "for itself", and consequently it never 
occurs to them that their history might have some possible import- 
ance, that there might be some value in leaving documentary 
evidence of it. 

Hence in such movements there exist multiple elements of 
"conscious leadership", but no one of them is predominant or 
transcends the level of a given social stratum's "popular science" — 


its "common sense" or traditional conception of the world. 96 This 
is precisely what De Man, 97 empirically, counterposes to Marxism; 
but he does not realise (apparently) that he is falling into the 
position of somebody who, after describing folklore, witchcraft, etc., 
and showing that these conceptions have sturdy historical roots and 
are tenaciously entwined in the psychology of specific popular 
strata, believed that he had "transcended" modern science — taking 
as "modern science" every little article in the popular scientific 
journals and periodicals. This is a real case of intellectual teratology, 
of which there are other examples: precisely, the admirers of 
folklore, who advocate its preservation; the "magicalists" connected 
with Maeterlinck, who believe it is necessary to take up anew the 
thread — snapped by violence — of alchemy and witchcraft, so that 
science may be put back onto a course more fertile in discoveries, 
etc. However, De Man does have one incidental merit : he demon- 
strates the need to study and develop the elements of popular 
psychology, historically and sociologically, actively (i.e. in order to 
transform them, by educating them, into a modern mentality) and 
descriptively as he does. But this need was at least implicit (perhaps 
even explicitly stated) in the doctrine of Hitch [Lenin] — something 
of which De Man is entirely ignorant. The fact that every "spon- 
taneous" movement contains rudimentary elements of conscious 
leadership, of discipline, is indirectly demonstrated by the fact that 
there exist tendencies and groups who extol spontaneity as a 
method. Here one must distinguish between the realm of pure 
"ideology" and that of practical action, between scholars who 
argue that spontaneity is the immanent and objective "method" of 
the historical process, and political adventurers who argue for it 
as a "political" method. With the former it is a question of a 
mistaken conception, whereas with the latter what is involved is an 
immediate and vulgar contradiction which betrays its manifest 
practical origin — i.e. the immediate desire to replace a given leader- 
ship by a different one. Even in the case of the scholars the error 
does have a practical origin, but it is not an immediate one as in 
the latter case. The apoliticism of the French syndicalists before 
the war contained both these elements: there was a theoretical 
error and a contradiction (there was the "Sorelian" element, and 
the elements of rivalry between the anarcho-syndicalist political 
tendency and that of the socialists). That apoliticism was still a 

" See introduction to "The Study of Philosophy", on pp. 321 22 below. Also 
the essays in the section "On Education" pp. 26 43. 
" See note 56 on p. 160. 


consequence of the terrible events of 1871 in Paris: the continuation, 
with new methods and a brilliant theory, of the thirty years of 
passivity (1870- 1900) of the French working class. The purely 
"economic" struggle was not to the distaste of the ruling class — on 
the contrary. The same may be said of the Catalan movement, 88 
which if it "displeased" the Spanish ruling class did so only because 
it objectively reinforced Catalan republican separatism, producing 
a real republican industrial bloc against the latifundists, the petite 
bourgeoisie and the royal army. The Turin movement was accused 
simultaneously of being "spontaneist" and "voluntarist" or Berg- 
sonian." This contradictory accusation, if one analyses it, only 
testifies to the fact that the leadership given to the movement was 
both creative and correct. This leadership was not "abstract"; it 
neither consisted in mechanically repeating scientific or theoretical 
formulae, nor did it confuse politics, real action, with theoretical 
disquisition. It applied itself to real men, formed in specific historical 
relations, with specific feelings, outlooks, fragmentary conceptions 
of the world, etc., which were the result of "spontaneous" com- 
binations of a given situation of material production with the 
"fortuitous" agglomeration within it of disparate social elements. 
This element of "spontaneity" was not neglected and even less 
despised. It was educated, directed, purged of extraneous con- 
taminations; the aim was to bring it into line with modern theory 100 
— but in a living and historically effective manner. The leaders 
themselves spoke of the "spontaneity" of the movement, and 
rightly so. This assertion was a stimulus, a tonic, an element of 
unification in depth; above all it denied that the movement was 
arbitrary, a cooked-up venture, and stressed its historical necessity. 
It gave the masses a "theoretical" consciousness of being creators 
of historical and institutional values, of being founders of a State. 
This unity between "spontaneity" and "conscious leadership" or 
"discipline" is precisely the real political action of the subaltern 
classes, in so far as this is mass politics and not merely an adventure 
by groups claiming to represent the masses. 

At this point, a fundamental theoretical question is raised: can 
modern theory be in opposition to the "spontaneous" feelings of 
the masses? ("Spontaneous" in the sense that they are not the 
result of any systematic educational activity on the part of an already 

*' i.e. the syndicalist struggle in Barcelona between 1916 and 1923. 

For Trozzi's accusation, subsequently often repeated, that Gramsci and the 
Ordine. Nuovo group were "Bergsonian", see note 28 on p. 343. 
100 i.e. Marxism. 


conscious leading group, but have been formed through everyday 
experience illuminated by "common sense", i.e. by the traditional 
popular conception of the world — what is unimaginatively called 
"instinct", although it too is in fact a primitive and elementary 
historical acquisition.) It cannot be in opposition to them. Between 
the two there is a "quantitative" difference of degree, not one of 
quality. A reciprocal "reduction" so to speak, a passage from one 
to the other and vice versa, must be possible. (Recall that Immanuel 
Kant believed it important for his philosophical theories to agree 
with common sense; the same position can be found in Croce. 
Recall too Marx's assertion in The Holy Family that the political 
formulae of the French Revolution can be reduced to the principles 
of classical German philosophy.-) 101 Neglecting, or worse still 
despising, so-called "spontaneous" movements, i.e. failing to give 
them a conscious leadership or to raise them to a higher plane by 
inserting them into politics, may often have extremely serious 
consequences. It is almost always the case that a "spontaneous" 
movement of the subaltern classes is accompanied by a reactionary 
movement of the right-wing of the dominant class, for concomitant 
reasons. An economic crisis, for instance, engenders on the one 
hand discontent among the subaltern classes and spontaneous mass 
movements, and on the other conspiracies among the reactionary 
groups, who take advantage of the objective weakening of the 
government in order to attempt coups d'etat. Among the effective 
causes of the coups must be included the failure of the responsible 
groups to give any conscious leadership to the spontaneous revolts 
or to make them into a positive political factor. N.B. the example 
of the Sicilian Vespers, 102 and the arguments among historians 
about whether this was a spontaneous movement or one planned 
in advance. In my view the two elements were combined in the 
case of the Vespers. On the one hand, a spontaneous rising of the 
Sicilian people against their Provencal rulers which spread so 
rapidly that it gave the impression of simultaneity and hence of 
preconcertation; this rising was the result of an oppression which 

101 See chapter VI. 

102 On 31 March 1282, the population of Palermo rose against the government 
of Charles of Anjou. The uprising, which came to be known as the Sicilian Vespers, 
spread rapidly throughout the island, and the French were expelled in less than 
a month. The throne was subsequently given to Frederick of Aragon. The rising 
had been the result of a combination of popular discontent and the plans of 
pro-Aragonese elements among the nobility, e.g. Giovanni da Procida (1210 
approx. 1282), who became chancellor of the Kingdom after the rising had 



had become intolerable throughout the national territory. On the 
other hand, there was the conscious element, of varying importance 
and effectiveness, and the success of Giovanni da Procida's plot 
with the Aragonese. Other examples can be drawn from all past 
revolutions in which several subaltern classes were present, with a 
hierarchy determined by economic position and internal homo- 
geneity. The "spontaneous" movements of the broader popular 
strata make possible the coming to power of the most progressive 
subaltern class as a result of the objective weakening of the State. 
This is still a "progressive" example; but, in the modern world, the 
regressive examples are more frequent. 

There exists a scholastic and academic historico-political outlook 
which sees as real and worthwhile only such movements of revolt 
as are one hundred per cent conscious, i.e. movements that are 
governed by plans worked out in advance to the last detail or in 
line with abstract theory (which comes to the same thing). But 
reality produces a wealth of the most bizarre combinations. It is 
up to the theoretician to unravel these in order to discover fresh 
proof of his theory, to "translate" into theoretical language the 
elements of historical life. It is not reality which should be expected 
to conform to the abstract schema. This will never happen, and 
hence this conception is nothing but an expression of passivity. 
(Leonardo was able to discern number in all the manifestations of 
cosmic life, even where profane eyes only saw blind chance and 
chaos.) [1930] 


One may term "Byzantinism" or "scholasticism" the regressive 
tendency to treat so-called theoretical questions as if they had a 
value in themselves, independently of any specific practice. A 
typical example of Byzantinism were the so-called Rome Theses, 103 

103 The "Rome Theses" were the fundamental policy document of the first years 
of the PCI. Passed at the Rome Congress of 20 March 1922 (the founding congress 
of January 1 92 1 immediately after the split from the PSI was simply a demon- 
stration, and a provisional settlement of organisational questions), they consisted 
of theses on tactics drafted by Bordiga and Terracini it is these which are normally 
referred to as the "Rome Theses" — on the agrarian question by Sanna and 
Graziadei, and on the trade unions by Gramsci and Tasca. In the perspective of 
Bordiga's theses on tactics, the main danger was seen as a social democratic 
resolution of the crisis of the Italian State. The phenomenon of fascism (the 
March on Rome was to occur within six months, and the fascist squads had been 
active for almost two years) was seen as an organic development of the bourgeois 
parliamentary regime; it was necessary to combat it, but only with the minimum 
of means necessary to contain it it was not to be made the main enemy. When 
the Comintern considered these theses, Trotsky and Radek proposed that they 



in which a kind of mathematical method was applied to each issue, 
as in pure economics. The problem arises of whether a theoretical 
truth, whose discovery corresponded to a specific practice, can be 
generalised and considered as universal for a historical epoch. The 
proof of its universality consists precisely i. in its becoming a 
stimulus to know better the concrete reality of a situation that is 
different from that in which it was discovered (this is the principal 
measure of its fecundity) ; 2. when it has stimulated and helped this 
better understanding of concrete reality, in its capacity to in- 
corporate itself in that same reality as if it were originally an 
expression of it. It is in this incorporation that its real universality 
lies, and not simply in its logical or formal coherence, or in the 
fact that it is a useful polemical tool for confounding the enemy. 
In short, the principle must always rule that ideas are not born of 
other ideas, philosophies of other philosophies; they are a con- 
tinually renewed expression of real historical development. The 
unity of history (what the idealists call unity of the spirit) is not a 
presupposition, but a continuously developing process. Identity in 
concrete reality determines identity of thought, and not vice versa. 
It can further be deduced that every truth, even if it is universal, 
and even if it can be expressed by an abstract formula of a mathe- 
matical kind (for the sake of the theoreticians), owes its effectiveness 
to its being expressed in the language appropriate to specific 
concrete situations. If it cannot be expressed in such specific terms, 
it is a byzantine and scholastic abstraction, good only for phrase- 
mongers to toy with. [1932] 


In a critical account of the post-war events, and of the constitutional 
(organic) attempts to escape from the prevailing state of disorder 

should simply be rejected this was prior to the congress itself. They were finally 
presented to the congress as a contribution to the preparation of the Fourth 
World Congress of the Comintern, due in December, and in this way it was 
intended to avoid breaking Comintern discipline. At the congress the theses were 
attacked by the Comintern representatives, notably Kolarov, who harshly criticised 
their rejection of the United Front slogan. They were defended not only by 
Bordiga and Terracini, but also by Gramsci, who spoke of the "peasant" character 
of the PSI and expressed fears that a united front would lead to the drowning of 
the revolutionary party in a peasant context. Kolarov's speech had a considerable 
effect on the delegates, and provoked the emergence of a minority opposition, led 
notably by Tasca. It appears that one of the main reasons for Gramsci's continued 
support for the Bordiga leadership at this time was his fear that if Bordiga was 
removed only Tasca and the Right could replace him. For all this see General 
Introduction. It was only at the Lyons Congress of January ig26 that the Rome 
Theses were finally replaced by a document of similar stature — the Lyons Theses. 



and dispersal of forces, show how the movement to valorise the 
factory by contrast with (or rather independently of) craft organisa- 
tion 104 corresponded perfectly to the analysis of how the factory 
system developed given in the first volume of the Critique of 
Political Economy. 105 An increasingly perfect division of labour 
objectively reduces the position of the factory worker to increasingly 
"analytical" movements of detail, so that the complexity of the 
collective work passes the comprehension of the individual worker; 
in the latter's consciousness, his own contribution is devalued to 
the point where it seems easily replaceable at any moment. At the 
same time, work that is concerted and well organised gives a better 
"social" productivity, so that the entire work-force of a factory 
should see itself as a "collective worker". These were the premisses 
of the factory movement, which aimed to render "subjective" that 
which is given "objectively". What does objective mean in this 
instance? For the individual worker, the junction between the 
requirements of technical development and the interests of the 
ruling class is "objective". But this junction, this unity between 
technical development and the interests of the ruling class is only a 
historical phase of industrial development, and must be conceived 
of as transitory. The nexus can be dissolved ; technical requirements 
can be conceived in concrete terms, not merely separately from the 
interests of the ruling class, but in relation to the interests of the 
class which is as yet still subaltern. A compelling proof that such 
a "split" and new synthesis is historically mature is constituted by 
the very fact that such a process is understood by the subaltern 
class — which precisely for that reason is no longer subaltern, or at 
least is demonstrably on the way to emerging from its subordinate 
position. The "collective worker" understands that this is what he 
is, not merely in each individual factory but in the broader spheres 
of the national and international division of labour. It is precisely 
in the organisms which represent the factory as a producer of real 
objects and not of profit that he gives an external, political demon- 
stration of the consciousness he has acquired. [1932] 


In a whole series of problems — problems arising both in the re- 
construction of past history and in historico-political analysis of the 
present — no account is taken of the following factor: that the 

io« i.e. the factory council movement animated by (kdine Nuovo. 
106 i.e. Capital (Volume I, chapters XIV and XV). 


actions and organisations of "volunteers' 106 must be distinguished 
from the actions and organisations of homogeneous social blocs, 
and judged by different criteria. (Obviously, "volunteers" should 
be taken as meaning not the elite when this is an organic expression 
of the social mass, but rather those who have detached themselves 
from the mass by arbitrary individual initiative, and who often 
stand in opposition to that mass or are neutral with respect to it.) 

This factor is especially important in the case of Italy: I. on 
account of the traditional apoliticism and passivity of the great 
popular masses; the relative ease with which "volunteers are 
recruited" is a natural reaction to these phenomena; 2. on account 
of the social composition of Italy, one of whose features is the 
unhealthy quantity of rural (or rural-type) middle and petits 
bourgeois, who produce a large number of dissatisfied intellectuals — • 
hence ready "volunteers" for any enterprise (even the most bizarre) 
which is vaguely subversive (to the Right or to the Left) ; 3. on 
account of the mass of rural wage-labourers and of Lumpenproletariat 
— called in Italy by the picturesque name of "morti di fame". 167 
When one analyses the Italian political parties, one can see that 
they have always been parties of "volunteers", and in a certain 
sense of declasses ; they have never or almost never represented 

ioe The notion that modern Italian history was the creation of "volunteers" 
was a typical fascist theme. On PP. p. 165, Gramsci quotes the fascist deputy 
Balbo as stating: "The original creations of Italian history and civilisation, from 
the day in which the country reawoke from its secular lethargy until today, are 
due to the voluntary action of the youth. The holy rabble of Garibaldi, the heroic 
interventionism of 191 5, the Black Shirts of the Fascist Revolution have given 
unity and power to Italy, have welded a divided people into a nation." Gramsci 
comments: "The assertion that modern Italy was characterised by volunteer 
action is correct (commandos in the war could be added to the list), but it must 
be stressed that this volunteer action, despite its undeniable historical merit, has 
been a surrogate for popular intervention, and in this sense is a solution of com- 
promise with the passivity of the masses of the nation. Volunteer action and passivity 
go together more than is thought. The solution involving volunteer action is a 
solution of authority, from the top down, formally legitimised by the consent, it 
is claimed, of the 'best' elements. But to construct a lasting history the 'best 
elements' are not enough ; the vaster and more numerous national-popular energies 
are needed." And in another oblique comment on fascism, in the course of a note 
on various interpretations of the Risorgimento (Ris. p. 60), Gramsci refers to the 
fact that "an organic adhesion of the national-popular masses to the State is 
replaced by a selection of 'volunteers' of the 'nation' abstractly conceived. Nobody 
has realised that precisely the problem posed by Machiavelli when he proclaimed 
the necessity of replacing the untrustworthy, provisional mercenaries by national 
militia cannot be resolved until 'voluntarism' has been superseded by mass 
'national-popular' action, since voluntarism is an intermediate, equivocal solution, 
as dangerous as the phenomenon of mercenaries." 

107 For the concept of "morto di fame" see the note entitled "Subversive", 
pp. 272 5 below. 



homogeneous social blocs. One exception was the Cavourian 
historic Right, and that was what constituted its organic and 
permanent superiority over the so-called Action Party of Mazzini 
and Garibaldi. 108 The latter was the prototype for subsequent 
"mass" parties in Italy — which were not really mass parties at all 
(i.e. they did not organise homogeneous social groups), but the 
political equivalent of gypsy bands or nomads. Only one such 
analysis exists (and that imprecise and gelatinous, written solely 
from a "statistical-sociological" point of view) ; this is in Roberto 
Michels' i7 proletariate e la borgkesia nel movimento socialista italiano, 
Torino, Bocca 1908. 

The position of Gottlieb 109 was precisely similar to that of the 
Action Party, i.e. of a gypsy or nomad kind. His interest in the 
trade unions was extremely superficial, and polemical in origin — 
not systematic, not organic and coherent, not directed towards 
social homogeneity but paternalistic and formalistic. 

A distinction must be made between two kinds of voluntarism 
or Garibaldism. On the one hand there is that which theorises 
itself as an organic form of historico-political activity, and celebrates 
itself in terms which are purely and simply a transposition of the 
language of the individual superman to an ensemble of "supermen" 
(celebration of active minorities as such, etc.). On the other hand 
there is voluntarism or Garibaldism conceived as the initial moment 
of an organic period which must be prepared and developed; a 
period in which the organic collectivity, as a social bloc, will 
participate fully. "Vanguards" without armies to back them up, 
"commandos" without infantry or artillery, these too are trans- 
positions from the language of rhetorical heroism — though vanguard 
and commandos as specialised functions within complex and 
regular organisms are quite another thing. The same distinction 
can be made between the notion of intellectual elites separated 
from the masses, and that of intellectuals who are conscious of being 
linked organically to a national-popular mass. In reality, one has 
to struggle against the above-mentioned degenerations, the false 
heroisms and pseudo-aristocracies, and stimulate the formation of 

108 yot the Cavourian Right and the Action Party, see "The Problem of 
Political Leadership in the Formation and Development of the Nation and the 
Modern State in Italy", on pp. 55 90 above. 

108 Literally translated, Gottlieb = Amadeo [Bordiga]. For Gramsci's analysis 
of Bordiga, see General Introduction. The rather odd designation of Bordiga as 
"gypsy" can be taken to mean that in Gramsci's view Bordiga's conception of the 
party involved no organic relationship with the proletariat, but made it into a 
kind of "volunteer" organisation, unattached to any class. 


homogeneous., compact social blocs, which will give birth to their 
own intellectuals, their own commandos, their own vanguard — 
who in turn will react upon those blocs in order to develop them, 
and not merely so as to perpetuate their gypsy domination. Roman- 
ticism's Paris boheme too was intellectually at the root of many 
contemporary modes of thought which appear nonetheless to deride 
those bohemiens. [1933-34] 




The notes grouped in this section include some of the most crucial 
to an understanding of Gramsci's political thought. They deal with 
the nature of fascism, the revolutionary strategy appropriate in the 
West (or in the epoch in which Gramsci is writing — see below), and 
the theory of the State. They can perhaps best be approached via 
the three related concepts of Caesarism, war of position, and civil 

"Caesarism", for Gramsci, is a concept which does not merely 
refer to fascism, but can have a wider application — e.g. to the 
British National Government of 1931, etc.; it is thus not identical 
to Marx's concept of "Bonapartism", although it is clearly related 
to it. "Caesarism" represents a compromise between two "funda- 
mental" social forces, but 1. "The problem is to see whether in the 
dialectic 'revolution/restoration' it is revolution or restoration 
which predominates", and 2. "It would be an error of method to 
believe that in Caesarism . . . the entire new historical phenomenon 
is due to the equilibrium of the 'fundamental' forces. It is also 
necessary to see the interplay of relations between the principal 
groups ... of the fundamental classes and the auxiliary forces 
directed by, or subjected to, their hegemonic influence." Thus, in 
the specific case of the fascist regime in Italy, the problem, in 
Gramsci's eyes, is 1. to analyse the "passive revolution" which 
fascism perhaps represents, and 2. to analyse the specificity of the 
social forces which produced it — i.e. rejecting absolutely the crude 
equation fascism = capitalism. 

In "The Concept of 'Passive Revolution' " (pp. 106-14), Gramsci 
tentatively related "passive revolution" to "war of position". The 
difficulty of this latter concept is that Gramsci uses it in two partially 
conflicting senses. Sometimes it is the form of political struggle 
which alone is possible in periods of relatively stable equilibrium 
between the fundamental classes, i.e. when frontal attack, or war 
of manoeuvre, is impossible. It is in such periods that Gramsci 
poses the question "does there exist an absolute identity between 
war of position and passive revolution ? Or at least does there exist, 
or can there be conceived, an entire historical period in which the 
two concepts must be considered identical — until the point at which 


the war of position again becomes a war of manoeuvre?" Here, 
clearly, war of position will give way to war of manoeuvre at a 
certain point in the historical development, and then it will once 
again be possible to carry out "frontal attacks" on the State. 
However, in "Political Struggle and Military War" (pp. 229-38), 
war of position is related to the West, where there is a "proper 
relation between State and civil society", unlike the East (Russia) , 
where war of manoeuvre was appropriate. The two conceptions of 
"war of position" are only reconciled in one passage, and that with 
considerable qualifications, where Gramsci suggests that in the 
West civil society resists, i.e. must be conquered, before the frontal 
assault on the State. This notion can of course be related to the 
thesis put forward in "The Problem of Political Leadership . . ." 
above, where Gramsci says that "A social group can, and indeed 
must, already exercise 'leadership' [i.e. be hegemonic] before winning 
governmental power (this indeed is one of the principal conditions 
for the winning of such power)". 

Clearly this thesis is open to reformist interpretations, involving 
an under-estimate of the problem of the State in revolutionary 
strategy. But there is little justification for imputing any such 
illusion to Gramsci himself. The fact that, more than any other 
great revolutionary Marxist thinker, he concerned himself with the 
sphere of "civil society" and of "hegemony", in his prison writings, 
cannot be taken to indicate a neglect of the moment of political 
society, of force, of domination. On the contrary, his entire record 
shows that this was not the case, and that his constant preoccupation 
was to avoid any undialectical separation of "the ethical-political 
aspect of politics or theory of hegemony and consent" from "the 
aspect of force and economics". What is, however, true is that 
Gramsci did not succeed in finding a single, wholly satisfactory 
conception of "civil society" or the State. This is not the place to 
attempt a discussion of his theory of the State. (Those interested 
should see, in particular, the important exchange between Norberto 
Bobbio and Jacques Texier in Gramsci e la cultura contemporanea, 
Editori Riuniti, 1969.) But the diversity of his attempts to formulate 
his position must be briefly indicated. 

In the passage referred to above, civil society resists before the 
frontal assault on the State. Yet, in another of the notes grouped 
under the title "Political Struggle and Military War", Gramsci 
describes the State in the West as "an outer ditch, behind which 
there stand a powerful system of fortresses and earthworks" — i.e. 
in precisely the opposite way. The State is elsewhere defined as 



"political society + civil society", and elsewhere again as a balance 
between political society and civil society. In yet another passage, 
Gramsci stresses that "in concrete reality, civil society and State 
are one and the same". 

To these variations in Gramsci's conception of the State there 
correspond analogous variations in his conception of civil society. 
(See too notes 4, 5 and 49 on pp. 55, 55 and 80 respectively, and 
note 71 on p. 170.) On PP, p. 164, Gramsci writes: "A distinc- 
tion must be made between civil society as understood by Hegel, 
and as often used in these notes (i.e. in the sense of political and 
cultural hegemony of a social group over the entire society, as 
ethical content of the State), and on the other hand civil society 
in the sense in which it is understood by catholics, for whom civil 
society is instead political society of the State, in contrast with the 
society of family and that of the Church." In this "Hegelian" usage, 
State/political society is contrasted to civil society as moments of 
the superstructure. Yet in Hegel's Philosophy of Right, civil society 
includes economic relations — and it is in this sense that the term is 
used by Marx, for example in The Jewish Question. And Gramsci 
too at times adopts this usage, e.g. on MS, pp. 266-67: "Every 
social form has its homo oeconomicus, i.e. its own economic activity. 
To maintain that the concept of homo oeconomicus has no scientific 
value is merely a way of maintaining that the economic structure 
and the economic activity appropriate to it are radically changed, in 
other words that the economic structure is so changed that the mode 
of economic behaviour must necessarily change too in order to 
become appropriate to the new structure. But precisely here lies 
the disagreement, and a disagreement which is not so much objective 
and scientific as political. What, anyway, would a scientific recogni- 
tion that the economic structure has changed, and that economic 
behaviour must change to conform to the new structure, mean? 
It would have the significance of a political stimulus, nothing more. 
Between the economic structure and the State with its legislation 
and its coercion stands civil society, and the latter must be radically 
transformed, in a concrete sense and not simply on the statute-book 
or in scientific books. The State is the instrument for conforming 
civil society to the economic structure, but it is necessary for the 
State to 'be willing' to do this; i.e. for the representatives of the 
change that has taken place in the economic structure to be in 
control of the State. To expect that civil society will conform to the 
new structure as a result of propaganda and persuasion, or that the 
old homo oeconomicus will disappear without being buried with all 


20 9 

the honours it deserves, is a new form of economic rhetoric, a 
new form of empty and inconclusive economic moralism." Here 
civil society is in effect equated with "the mode of economic 



At a certain point in their historical lives, social classes become 
detached from their traditional parties. In other words, the tradi- 
tional parties in that particular organisational form, with the 
particular men who constitute, represent, and lead them, are no 
longer recognised by their class (or fraction of a class) as its expres- 
sion. When such crises occur, the immediate situation becomes 
delicate and dangerous, because the field is open for violent solu- 
tions, for the activities of unknown forces, represented by charismatic 
"men of destiny". 

These situations of conflict between "represented and representa- 
tives" reverberate out from the terrain of the parties (the party 
organisations properly speaking, the parliamentary-electoral field, 
newspaper organisation) throughout the State organism, rein- 
forcing the relative power of the bureaucracy (civil and military), 
of high finance, of the Church, and generally of all bodies relatively 
independent of the fluctuations of public opinion. How are they 
created in the first place ? In every country the process is different, 
although the content is the same. And the content is the crisis of 
the ruling class's hegemony, which occurs either because the ruling 
class has failed in some major political undertaking for which it 
has requested, or forcibly extracted, the consent of the broad masses 
(war, for example), or because huge masses (especially of peasants 
and petit-bourgeois intellectuals) have passed suddenly from a 
state of political passivity to a certain activity, and put forward 
demands which taken together, albeit not organically formulated, 
add up to a revolution. A "crisis of authority" 1 is spoken of: this 
is precisely the crisis of hegemony, or general crisis of the State. 

The crisis creates situations which are dangerous in the short 
run, since the various strata of the population are not all capable of 
orienting themselves equally swiftly, or of reorganizing with the 
same rhythm. The traditional ruling class, which has numerous 
trained cadres, changes men and programmes and, with greater 
speed than is achieved by the subordinate classes, reabsorbs the 
control that was slipping from its grasp. Perhaps it may make 
sacrifices, and expose itself to an uncertain future by demagogic 
promises; but it retains power, reinforces it for the time being, and 

1 See " 'Wave of Materialism' and 'Crisis of Authority' ", on pp. 275-6. 



uses it to crush its adversary and disperse his leading cadres, who 
cannot be very numerous or highly trained. The passage of the troops 
of many different parties under the banner of a single party, -which 
better represents and resumes the needs of the entire class, is an 
organic and normal phenomenon, even if its rhythm is very swift — 
indeed almost like lightning in comparison with periods of calm. 
It represents the fusion of an entire social class under a single 
leadership, which alone is held to be capable of solving an over- 
riding problem of its existence and of fending off a mortal danger. 
When the crisis does not find this organic solution, but that of the 
charismatic leader, it means that a static equilibrium exists (whose 
factors may be disparate, but in which the decisive one is the 
immaturity of the progressive forces); it means that no group, 
neither the conservatives nor the progressives, has the strength for 
victory, and that even the conservative group needs a master, 
[i 932-1 934: 1st version 1930-1932.] See The Eighteenth Brumaire of 
Louis Bonaparte. This order of phenomena is connected to one of the 
most important questions concerning the political party — i.e. the 
party's capacity to react against force of habit, against the 
tendency to become mummified and anachronistic. Parties come 
into existence, and constitute themselves as organisations, in 
order to influence the situation at moments which are historically 
vital for their class; but they are not always capable of adapting 
themselves to new tasks and to new epochs, nor of evolving pari 
passu with the overall relations of force (and hence the relative 
position of their class) in the country in question, or in the interna- 
tional field. In analysing the development of parties, it is necessary 
to distinguish: their social group; their mass membership; their 
bureaucracy and General Staff. The bureaucracy is the most 
dangerously hidebound and conservative force; if it ends up by 
constituting a compact body, which stands on its own and feels 
itself independent of the mass of members, the party ends up by 
becoming anachronist and at moments of acute crisis it is voided 
of its social content and left as though suspended in mid-air. One 
can see what has happened to a number of German parties as a 
result of the expansion of Hitlerism. French parties are a rich field 
for such research: they are all mummified and anachronistic — 
historico-political documents of the various phases of past French 
history, whose outdated terminology they continue to repeat; their 
crisis could become even more catastrophic than that of the 
German parties. [1932-34: 1st version 1930-32.] 

In examining such phenomena people usually neglect to give due 



importance to the bureaucratic element, both civil and military; 
furthermore they forget that not only actual military and bureau- 
cratic elements, but also the social strata from which, in the 
particular national structure, the bureaucracy is traditionally 
recruited, must be included in such analyses. A political move- 
ment can be of a military character even if the army as such does 
not participate in it openly; a government can be of a military 
character even if the army as such does not take part in it. In 
certain situations it may happen that it suits better not to "reveal" 
the army, not to have it cross the bounds of what is constitutional, 
not to introduce politics into the ranks, as the saying goes — so that 
the homogeneity between officers and other ranks is maintained, 
on a terrain of apparent neutrality and superiority to the factions ; 
yet it is nonetheless the army, that is to say the General Staff and 
the officer corps, which determines the new situation and dominates 
it. However, it is not true that armies are constitutionally barred 
from making politics; the army's duty is precisely to defend the 
Constitution — in other words the legal form of the State together 
with its related institutions. Hence so-called neutrality only means 
support for the reactionary side; but in such situations, the question 
has to be posed in such terms to prevent the unrest in the country 
being reproduced within the army, and the determining power of 
the General Staff thus evaporating through the disintegration of 
its military instrument. Obviously, none of these observations is 
absolute; at various moments of history and in various countries 
they have widely differing significance. 

The first problem to be studied is the following: does there 
exist, in a given country, a widespread social stratum in whose 
economic life and political self-assertion (effective participation in 
power, even though indirectly, by "blackmail") the bureaucratic 
career, either civil or military, is a very important element? In 
modern Europe this stratum can be identified in the medium and 
small rural bourgeoisie, which is more or less numerous from one 
country to another — depending on the development of industrial 
strength on the one hand, and of agrarian reform on the other. 
Of course the bureaucratic career (civil and military) is not the 
monopoly of this social stratum; however, it is particularly well 
suited to the social function which this stratum carries out, and to 
the psychological tendencies which such a function produces or 
encourages. These two elements impart to the entire social stratum 
a certain homogeneity and energy in its aims — and hence a political 
value, and an often decisive function within the entire social 



organism. The members of this stratum are accustomed to direct 
command over nuclei of men, however tiny, and to commanding 
"politically", not "economically". In other words, their art of 
command implies no aptitude for ordering "things", for ordering 
"men and things" into an organic whole, as occurs in industrial 
production — since this stratum has no economic functions in the 
modern sense of the word. It has an income, because legally it is 
the owner of a part of the national soil, and its function consists 
in opposing "politically" the attempts of the peasant farmer to 
ameliorate his existence — since any improvement in the relative 
position of the peasant would be catastrophic for its social position. 
The chronic poverty and prolonged labour of the peasant, with the 
degradation these bring, are a primordial necessity for it. This is the 
explanation for the immense energy it shows in resisting and 
counterattacking whenever there is the least attempt at autonomous 
organisation of peasant labour, or any peasant cultural movement 
which leaves the bounds of official religion. This social stratum 
finds its limits, and the reasons for its ultimate weakness, in its 
territorial dispersal and in the "non-homogeneity" which is inti- 
mately connected to this dispersal. This explains some of its other 
characteristics too: its volubility, the multiplicity of ideological 
systems it follows, even the bizarre nature of the ideologies it some- 
times follows. Its will is directed towards a specific end — but it is 
retarded, and usually requires a lengthy process before it can 
become politically and organisationally centralised. This process 
accelerates when the specific "will" of this stratum coincides with 
the will and the immediate interests of the ruling class; not only 
that, but its "military strength" then at once reveals itself, so that 
sometimes, when organised, it lays down the law to the ruling class, 
at least as far as the "form" of solution is concerned, if not the 
content. The same laws can be seen functioning here as have been 
observed in relations between town and countryside in the case of 
the subordinate classes. 2 Power in the towns automatically becomes 
power in the countryside. But the absence of economic margins 
and the normally heavier repression exercised from the top down- 
wards in the countryside cause conflicts there immediately to 
assume an acute and "personal" form, so that counterattacks have 
to be more rapid and determined. The stratum under consideration 
understands and sees that the origin of its troubles is in the towns, 
in urban power; it therefore understands that it "must" dictate a 

2 See "The City-Countryside Relationship" on pp. 90-102 above. 



solution to the urban ruling classes, so that the principal hot-bed 
will be extinguished — even if this does not immediately suit the 
urban ruling classes themselves, either because it is too costly, or 
because it is dangerous in the long term (these classes see longer 
cycles of development, in which it is possible to manoeuvre, instead 
of simply following "material" interests). It is in that sense, rather 
than in an absolute one, that the function of this stratum should 
be seen as directive; 3 all the same, it is no light matter.* It must 
be noted how this "military" character of the social group in 
question — traditionally a spontaneous reaction to certain specific 
conditions of its existence — is now consciously cultivated and 
organically formed in anticipation. To this conscious process belong 
the systematic efforts to create and reinforce various associations 
of reservists and ex-combatants from the various corps and branches 
of the services, especially of officers. These associations are linked 
to the respective General Staffs, and can be mobilised when required, 
without the need to mobilise the conscript army. The latter can 
thus preserve its character of a reserve force — forewarned, reinforced, 
and immunised from the political gangrene by these "private" 
forces which cannot fail to influence its morale, sustaining and 
stiffening it. It could be said that the result is a movement of the 
"cossack" type — with its formations ranged not along the frontiers 
of nationality, as was the case with the Tsarist cossacks, but along 
the "frontiers" of the social class. 

In a whole series of countries, therefore, military influence in 
national life means not only the influence and weight of the military 
in the technical sense, but the influence and weight of the social 

3 See note 5 on p. 55. Gramsci's argument here is that the North Italian 
capitalists might have preferred to continue with Giolitti's strategy of alliance 
with the reformist working-class leaders after 1920, but that they were "led" by 
their landlord allies to switch to a policy of total repression of the organized 
working class. (It is true that "agrarian fascism" did precede urban repression.) 
"Absolute" hegemony within the ruling-class bloc, however, remained of course 
with the urban bourgeoisie. 

* A reflection of this stratum can be seen in the ideological activity of the 
conservative intellectuals of the Right. Gaetano Mosca's book Teorica dei governi e 
governo parlamentare (second edition 1925, first edition 1883) is typical in this 
respect; 4 even in 1883 Mosca was terrified at the possibility of a contact between 
the towns and the countryside. Mosca, because of his defensive position (of 
counterattack), understood the political technique of the subaltern classes better 
in 1 883 than the representatives of those same classes, even in the towns, under- 
stood it themselves even several decades later. 

* Mosca (1858 1 941) was together with Pareto and Michels an originator of 
the sociological theory of "elites". His basic concept was that of the "political 
class", and his main object of attack was the Marxist theory of class struggle 
and concept of "ruling class". (See NM. p. 140, etc.) 



stratum from which the latter (especially the junior officers) mostly 
derives its origin. This series of observations is indispensable for 
any really profound analysis of the specific political form usually 
termed Caesarism or Bonapartism — to distinguish it from other 
forms in which the technical military element as such predominates, 
in conformations perhaps still more visible and exclusive. 

Spain and Greece offer two typical examples, with both similar 
and dissimilar characteristics. In Spain it is necessary to take 
certain peculiarities into account: the size of the national territory, 
and the low density of the peasant population. Between the lati- 
fundist aristocrat and the peasant there does not exist a numerous 
rural bourgeoisie; hence, minor importance of the junior officer 
corps as a force in itself. (On the other hand, a certain oppositional 
importance was possessed by the officers of the technical corps — 
artillery and engineers ; these, of urban bourgeois origin, opposed 
the generals and attempted to have a policy of their own.) Hence 
military governments in Spain are governments of "great" generals. 
Passivity of the peasant masses, as citizens and as soldiers. If political 
disintegration occurs in the army, it does so in a vertical rather 
than a horizontal sense, through rivalries between cliques at the 
top: the rank and file splits up behind the various competing 
leaders. Military government is a parenthesis between two con- 
stitutional governments. The military are the permanent reserves 
of order and conservation; they are a political force which comes 
into action "publicly" when "legality" is in danger. The course 
of events is similar in Greece, with the difference that Greek 
territory is scattered over a whole system of islands, and that a 
part of its more energetic and active population is always at sea, 
which makes military intrigue and conspiracy easier. The peasantry 
is passive in Greece as in Spain; but in the context of the total 
population — the most energetic and active Greeks being sailors, and 
almost always far from the centre of their political life — the general 
passivity must be analysed differently in each case, nor can the 
solution to the problem be the same in both countries. When the 
members of a deposed government were shot in Greece some years 
ago, 5 this was probably to be explained as an outburst of rage on 

6 In 1 920, Greece was torn between two ruling class factions. On the one hand 
the supporters of the deposed King Constantine, who leaned towards Germany. 
On the other the "liberals" headed by Venizelos, supported by the British. 
After several alternations in power, an attempt was made to assassinate Venizelos — 
who was Prime Minister at the time in August 1920, and its failure was followed 
by savage reprisals. Among those massacred was the royalist ex-minister 



the part of the energetic and active element referred to above, 
with the intention of imparting a bloody lesson. The most important 
observation to be made is that neither in Greece nor in Spain has 
the experience of military government created a permanent, and 
formally organic, political and social ideology — as does on the 
other hand occur in those countries which are, so to speak, 
potentially Bonapartist. The general historical conditions of the two 
types are the same : an equilibrium of the conflicting urban classes, 
which obstructs the mechanism of "normal" democracy — i.e. 
parliamentarism. But the influence of the countryside in this 
equilibrium is diverse in the two cases. In countries like Spain, 
the total passivity of the countryside enables the generals of the 
landowning aristocracy to utilise the army politically to restabilise 
the threatened equilibrium — in other words the supremacy of the 
ruling classes. In other countries the countryside is not passive, but 
the peasant movement is not coordinated politically with the urban 
movement: here the army has to remain neutral (up to a certain 
point, of course), since otherwise it might split horizontally; instead 
the bureacratic military class comes into action. This class, by 
military means, stifles the (more immediately dangerous) movement 
in the countryside. In this struggle, it finds a certain political 
and ideological unification; it finds allies in the urban middle 
classes (middle in the Italian sense) 6 — reinforced by students of 
rural origin now living in the towns; and it imposes its political 
methods on the upper classes, which are compelled to make 
numerous concessions to it, and to allow some legislation favourable 

• On NM. pp. 148-49, Gramsci writes: "The meaning of the expression 
'middle class' changes from country to country. . . . The term came from English 
social development. It seems that in England the bourgeoisie was never con- 
ceived of as an integral part of the people, but always as an entity separate from 
the latter: it thus came to pass, in English history, that instead of the bourgeoisie 
leading the people and winning the latter's support to abolish feudal privileges, 
the nobility (or a fraction of it) formed the national-popular bloc first against the 
Crown and later against the industrial bourgeoisie. English tradition of a popular 
"Toryism" (Disraeli, etc.). After the great liberal reforms, which brought the State 
into conformity with the interests and needs of the middle class, the two basic 
parties of English political life were differentiated on internal questions regarding 
the same class; the nobility increasingly acquired the specific character of a 
"bourgeois aristocracy" tied to certain functions of civil society and of political 
society (the State) — concerning tradition, the education of the ruling stratum, 
the preservation of a particular mentality which protects the system from sudden 
upheavals, etc., the consolidation of the imperial structure, etc. ... In Italy, where 
the feudal aristocracy was destroyed by the mediaeval Communes (physically 
destroyed in the civil wars, except in Southern Italy and Sicily), since the tradi- 
tional 'high' class is missing, the term 'middle' has gone down a rung. 'Negatively,' 
middle class means non-popular, i.e. those not workers or peasants; positively, it 
means the intellectual strata, the professional strata, the public employees." 



to its interests. In short, continuing to maintain itself under arms 
amidst the general disarmament, and brandishing the danger of a 
civil war between its own troops and the regular, conscripted 
army if the ruling class shows too great an itch for resistance, it 
succeeds in permeating the State with its interests, up to a certain 
point, and in replacing a part of the leading personnel. These 
observations must not be conceived of as rigid schemata, but merely 
as practical criteria of historical and political interpretation. In 
concrete analyses of real events, the historical forms are indi- 
vidualised and can almost be called "unique". Caesar represents 
a very different combination of real circumstances from that 
represented by Napoleon I, as does Primo de Rivera from that of 
2ivkovic, etc. 7 [1933-34: 1st version 1930-32] 

In analysing the third level or moment of the system of relations 
of force which exists in a given situation, 8 one may usefully have 
recourse to the concept which in military science is called the 
"strategic conjuncture" — or rather, more precisely, the level of 
strategic preparation of the theatre of struggle. One of the principal 
factors of this "strategic conjuncture" consists in the qualitative 
condition of the leading personnel, and of what may be called the 
"front-line" (and assault) forces. The level of strategic preparation 
can give the victory to forces which are "apparently" (i.e. quan- 
titatively) inferior to those of the enemy. It could be said that 
strategic preparation tends to reduce to zero the so-called "im- 
ponderable factors" — in other words, the immediate, unpre- 
meditated reactions at a given moment of the traditionally inert 
and passive forces. Among the factors involved in the preparation 
of a favourable strategic conjuncture, there must precisely be 
included those already studied in our earlier observations on the 
existence and organisation of a military social stratum, side by side 
with the national army in the technical sense.* 

7 Primo de Rivera (1870-1930) was dictator of Spain 1923 30, with the 
support of the monarchy. Petar 2ivkovic ( 1 879- 1 947) was Yugoslav prime minister 
1929-32, and the instrument of King Alexander's dictatorial rule during those 

8 See "Analysis of Situations" above, pp. 175-185. 

* In connection with the "military stratum", what T. Tittoni writes in Ricordi 
persdnali di politica interna (Nuova Antologia, 1— 16 April ig2g) is interesting. 
Tittoni recounts how he meditated on the fact that, in order to assemble the 
forces of order required to confront disturbances which had broken out in one 
place, it was necessary to plunder other regions. During the Red Week of June 
1 914, in order to repress the troubles in Ancona, Ravenna was plundered in this 
way ; and subsequently the Prefect of Ravenna, deprived of his forces of order, 
was obliged to shut himself up in the Prefecture, abandoning the city to the 
rebels. "Several times I wondered what the government could have done if a 



Further points could be developed out of the following extract 
from the speech which General Gazzera, Minister of War, delivered 
in the Senate on 19 May 1932 (see Corriere della Sera, 20 May) : "The 
disciplinary regime obtaining in our army thanks to Fascism, 
today sets a guiding norm valid for the entire nation. Other armies 
have had, and still retain, a formal and rigid discipline. We keep 
the principle constantly before us that the army is made for war, 
and that it is for war that it must prepare; peacetime discipline 
must be the same as wartime discipline, and it is in peacetime 
that the latter must find its spiritual foundations. Our discipline is 
based on a spirit of cohesion between leaders and followers which 
is a spontaneous product of the system adopted. This system 
resisted magnificently throughout a long and very hard war until 
the final victory; it is the merit of the Fascist regime to have 
extended to the entire Italian people so distinguished a disciplinary 
tradition. It is on individual discipline that the outcome of strategic 
conceptions and of tactical operations depends. War has taught us 
many things, among them that there is a deep gulf between peace- 
time preparation and wartime reality. It is certain that, whatever 
preparations may have been made, the initial operations of a 
campaign place the belligerents before new problems, which pro- 
duce surprises on both sides. It should not for that reason be con- 
cluded that it is useless to have any a priori conceptions, and that 
no lessons can be derived from past wars. A theory of war can 
in fact be extracted from them, a theory which must be understood 
through intellectual discipline — understood as a means for pro- 
moting modes of reasoning which are not discordant, and uniformity 
of language such as will enable all to understand and make them- 
selves understood. If, on occasions, theoretical unity has threatened 
to degenerate into schematism, there has at once been a prompt 
reaction, enforcing a rapid renovation of tactics — also made neces- 
sary by technical advances. Such a system of rules is therefore not 
static and traditional, as some people think. Tradition is considered 
only as a force, and the rules are constantly in the process of revision 
— not simply for the sake of change, but in order to fit them to 
reality." (An example of "preparation of the strategic conjuncture" 
is to be found in Churchill's Memoirs, where he speaks of the battle 
of Jutland.) [1933-34: is t version 1932] 

movement of revolt had broken out simultaneously all over the peninsula." 
Tittoni proposed to the government that it should enrol ex-combatants under the 
command of retired officers as "public order volunteers". His project seemed to 
merit consideration, but it was not followed up. 




Caesar, Napoleon I, Napoleon III, Cromwell, etc. Compile a 
catalogue of the historical events which have culminated in a 
great "heroic" personality. 

Caesarism can be said to express a situation in which the forces 
in conflict balance each other in a catastrophic manner; that is 
to say, they balance each other in such a way that a continua- 
tion of the conflict can only terminate in their reciprocal destruc- 
tion. When the progressive force A struggles with the reactionary 
force B, not only may A defeat B or B defeat A, but it may happen 
that neither A nor B defeats the other — that they bleed each other 
mutually and then a third force C intervenes from outside, sub- 
jugating what is left of both A and B. In Italy, after the death of 
Lorenzo il Magnifico, this is precisely what occurred. 10 

But Caesarism — although it always expresses the particular 
solution in which a great personality is entrusted with the task of 
"arbitration" over a historico-political situation characterised by 
an equilibrium of forces heading towards catastrophe — does not in 
all cases have the same historical significance. There can be both 
progressive and reactionary forms of Caesarism; the exact signifi- 
cance of each form can, in the last analysis, be reconstructed only 
through concrete history, and not by means of any sociological 
rule of thumb. Caesarism is progressive when its intervention helps 
the progressive force to triumph, albeit with its victory tempered 
by certain compromises and limitations. It is reactionary when its 
intervention helps the reactionary force to triumph — in this case 
too with certain compromises and limitations, which have, however, 
a different value, extent, and significance than in the former. 
Caesar and Napoleon I are examples of progressive Caesarism. 
Napoleon III and Bismarck of reactionary Caesarism. 

The problem is to see whether in the dialectic "revolution/ 
restoration" it is revolution or restoration which predominates; for 
it is certain that in the movement of history there is never any 

• As is clear from another note (PP, p. 189) this term was suggested to Gramsci 
by the analogy commonly drawn in fascist Italy between Caesar and Mussolini. 
Gramsci pours scorn on the "theory of Caesarism", on the idea that Caesar 
"transformed Rome from a city-state into the capital of the Empire" and by 
implication on the idea that Mussolini had effected a similar transformation in 
the status of modem Italy. 

10 The death of Lorenzo in 1492 marked the end of the internal balance of 
power between the Italian states, and the beginning of the period of foreign 
domination which was to last until the Risorgimento. 



turning back, and that restorations in toto do not exist. Besides, 
Caesarism is a polemical-ideological formula, and not a canon of 
historical interpretation. A Caesarist solution can exist even without 
a Caesar, without any great, "heroic" and representative per- 
sonality. The parliamentary system has also provided a mechanism 
for such compromise solutions. The "Labour" governments of 
MacDonald were to a certain degree solutions of this kind ; and the 
degree of Caesarism increased when the government was formed 
which had MacDonald as its head and a Conservative majority. 11 
Similarly in Italy from October 1922 until the defection of the 
"Popolari", and then by stages until 3 January 1925, and then 
until 8 November ia.26, 18 there was a politico-historical movement 
in which various gradations of Caesarism succeeded each other, 
culminating in a more pure and permanent form — though even 
this was not static or immobile. Every coalition government is a 
first stage of Caesarism, which either may or may not develop to 
more significant stages (the common opinion of course is that 
coalition governments, on the contrary, are the most "solid 
bulwark" against Caesarism). In the modern world, with its great 
economic-trade-union and party-political coalitions, the mechanism 
of the Caesarist phenomenon is very different from what it was up 
to the time of Napoleon III. In the period up to Napoleon III, 
the regular military forces or soldiers of the line were a decisive 
element in the advent of Caesarism, and this came about through 
quite precise coups d'etat, through military actions, etc. In the 
modern world trade-union and political forces, with the limitless 
financial means which may be at the disposal of small groups of 
citizens, complicate the problem. The functionaries of the parties 
and economic unions can be corrupted or terrorised, without any 
need for military action in the grand style — of the Caesar or 18 
Brumaire type. The same situation recurs in this field as was 
examined in connection with the Jacobin/Forty-eightist formula of 
the so-called "Permanent Revolution". 13 Modern political tech- 

11 i.e. the formation of the National Government after MacDonald's abandon- 
ment of the Labour Party in 1931. 

1S October 1922 was the date of the March on Rome. The Popular Party fsee 
note 14 on p. 62 above) at first supported the fascists in parliament and joined 
the government. In the summer of 1923, however, it split on the issue of policy 
towards the fascists, and in the elections of January 1924 it presented its own 
list of candidates. After the elections it refused to join a common front of opposition 
parties. On 3 January 1925, the fascist government suppressed freedom of the 
press. On 8 November 1926 the opposition parties were formally dissolved, 
and non-fascist deputies were declared to be stripped of their mandates Gramsci 
among them (he was arrested on the same day). 13 See note 49 on p. 80. 



nique became totally transformed after Forty-eight; after the expan- 
sion of parliamentarism and of the associative systems of union and 
party, and the growth in the formation of vast State and "private" 
bureaucracies (i.e. politico-private, belonging to parties and trade 
unions); and after the transformations which took place in the 
organisation of the forces of order in the wide sense — i.e. not only 
the public service designed for the repression of crime, but the 
totality of forces organised by the State and by private individuals 
to safeguard the political and economic domination of the ruling 
classes. In this sense, entire "political" parties and other organisa- 
tions — economic or otherwise — must be considered as organs of 
political order, of an investigational and preventive character. The 
generic schema of forces A and B in conflict with catastrophic 
prospects — i.e. with the prospect that neither A nor B will be 
victorious, in the struggle to constitute (or reconstitute) an organic 
equilibrium, from which Caesarism is born (can be bom) — is 
precisely a generic hypothesis, a sociological schema (convenient 
for the art of politics). It is possible to render the hypothesis ever 
more concrete, to carry it to an ever greater degree of approximation 
to concrete historical reality, and this can be achieved by defining 
certain fundamental elements. 

Thus, in speaking of A and B, it has merely been asserted that 
they are respectively a generically progressive, and a generically 
reactionary, force. But one might specify the type of progressive 
and reactionary force involved, and so obtain closer approximations. 
In the case of Caesar and of Napoleon I, it can be said that A and 
B, though distinct and in conflict, were nevertheless not such as to 
be "absolutely" incapable of arriving, after a molecular process, 
at a reciprocal fusion and assimilation. And this was what in fact 
happened, at least to a certain degree (sufficient, however, for the 
historico-political objectives in question — i.e. the halting of the 
fundamental organic struggle, and hence the transcendence of the 
catastrophic phase). This is one element of closer approximation. 
Another such element is the following: the catastrophic phase may 
be brought about by a "momentary" political deficiency of the 
traditional dominant force, and not by any necessarily insuperable 
organic deficiency. This was true in the case of Napoleon III. The 
dominant force in France from 18 15 up to 1848 had split politically 
(factiously) into four camps: legitimists, Orleanists, Bonapartists, 
Jacobin-republicans. The internal faction struggle was such as to 
make possible the advance of the rival force B (progressive) in a 
precocious form; however, the existing social form had not yet 



exhausted its possibilities for development, as subsequent history 
abundantly demonstrated. Napoleon III represented (in his own 
manner, as fitted the stature of the man, which was not great) 
these latent and immanent possibilities: his Caesarism therefore 
has a particular coloration. The Caesarism of Caesar and Napoleon I 
was, so to speak, of a quantitative/qualitative character; in other 
words it represented the historical phase of passage from one type 
of State to another type — a passage in which the innovations were 
so numerous, and of such a nature, that they represented a complete 
revolution. The Caesarism of Napoleon III was merely, and in a 
limited fashion, quantitative; there was no passage from one type 
of State to another, but only "evolution" of the same type along 
unbroken lines. 

In the modern world, Caesarist phenomena are quite different, 
both from those of the progressive Caesar/Napoleon I type, and from 
those of the Napoleon III type — although they tend towards the 
latter. In the modern world, the equilibrium with catastrophic 
prospects occurs not between forces which could in the last analysis 
fuse and unite — albeit after a wearying and bloody process — 
but between forces whose opposition is historically incurable and 
indeed becomes especially acute with the advent of Caesarist 
forms. However, in the modern world Caesarism also has a certain 
margin — larger or smaller, depending on the country and its 
relative weight in the global context. For a social form "always" 
has marginal possibilities for further development and organisational 
improvement, and in particular can count on the relative weakness 
of the rival progressive force as a result of its specific character and 
way of life. It is necessary for the dominant social form to preserve 
this weakness : this is why it has been asserted that modern Caesarism 
is more a police than a military system. [1933-34: 1st version 
I93 2 ] 

It would be an error of method (an aspect of sociological mech- 
anicism) to believe that in Caesarism — whether progressive, reac- 
tionary, or of an intermediate and episodic character — the entire 
new historical phenomenon is due to the equilibrium of the "funda- 
mental" forces. It is also necessary to see the interplay of relations 
between the principal groups (of various kinds, socio-economic and 
technical-economic) of the fundamental classes and the auxiliary 
forces directed by, or subjected to, their hegemonic influence. Thus 
it would be impossible to understand the coup d'etat of 2 December 14 

i.e. the coup d'etat whereby Louis Napoleon came to power. 



without studying the function of the French military groups and 

A very important historical episode from this point of view is 
the so-called Dreyfus affair in France. This too belongs to the 
present series of observations, not because it led to "Caesarism", 
indeed precisely for the opposite reason: because it prevented the 
advent of a Caesarism in gestation, of a clearly reactionary nature. 
Nevertheless, the Dreyfus movement is characteristic, since it was 
a case in which elements of the dominant social bloc itself thwarted 
the Caesarism of the most reactionary part of that same bloc. And 
they did so by relying for support not on the peasantry and the 
countryside, but on the subordinate strata in the towns under the 
leadership of reformist socialists (though they did in fact draw 
support from the most advanced part of the peasantry as well). 
There are other modern - historico-political movements of the 
Dreyfus type to be found, which are certainly not revolutions, but 
which are not entirely reactionary either — at least in the sense that 
they shatter stifling and ossified State structures in the dominant 
camp as well, and introduce into national life and social activity a 
different and more numerous personnel. 15 These movements too 
can have a relatively "progressive" content, in so far as they indicate 
that there were effective forces latent in the old society which the 
old leaders did not know how to exploit — perhaps even "marginal 
forces". However, such forces cannot be absolutely progressive, in 
that they are not "epochal". They are rendered historically effective 
by their adversary's inability to construct, not by an inherent force 
of their own. Hence they are linked to a particular situation of 
equilibrium between the conflicting forces — both incapable in their 
respective camps of giving autonomous expression to a will for 
reconstruction. [1933] 


(The beaver, pursued by trappers who want his testicles from which 
medicinal drugs can be extracted, to save his life tears off his own 
testicles.) Why was there no defence? Because the parties had 

15 This passage appears to refer to fascism again — particularly if it is related 
to the passage on "Self criticism and the Hypocrisy of Self-criticism" on pp. 254-7 
below, where Gramsci makes similar points about the non-"epochal" character 
of the regime, and about its "relatively" progressive character vis-d-vis the pre- 
ceding bourgeois regime. In the other passage, Gramsci is careful to stress that 
it is important in making any such judgement "to exclude the slightest appearance 
of support for the 'absolutist' tendency, and that can be achieved by insisting on 
the 'transitory' character of the phenomenon . . .". 



little sense of human or political dignity ? But such factors are not 
natural phenomena, deficiencies inherent in a people as permanent 
characteristics. They are "historical facts", whose explanation is 
to be found in past history and in the social conditions of the 
present. Apparent contradictions: there predominated a fatalistic and 
mechanistic conception of history (Florence, 191 7, accusation of 
Bergsonianism), 16 and yet positions taken up were characterised by 
a formalistic, crude and superficial voluntarism. For example, the 
1920 plan to establish an urban council in Bologna, restricted to 
organised elements. 17 This would only have created a useless 
duplicate, replacing an organism with historical roots in the masses 
like the Camera del Lavoro by an organism of a purely abstract and 
bookish kind. Did the plan at least have the political aim of trans- 
ferring hegemony to the urban element [the proletariat] ? (The 
latter, with the establishment of the council, would have acquired 
a centre of its own — given that the Camera del Lavoro was organised 
on a provincial basis.) There was no question of any intention of 
this kind, and in any case the project was never carried out. 

Treves' "expiation" speech: 18 this speech is fundamental for 
understanding the political confusion and polemical dilettantism 
of the leaders. Such skirmishes concealed these leaders' fear of 
concrete responsibilities, and that fear in turn concealed the absence 
of any unity with the class they represented, any comprehension 
of its fundamental needs, its aspirations, its latent energies. 
Paternalistic party, of petits bourgeois with an inflated idea of their 
own importance. 18 Why no defence ? The notion of war psychosis, 

16 See note 28 on p. 343. This passage analyses the suicidal passivity of Italian 
maximalism and reformism before fascism. 

17 There was a prolonged polemic in 1919-20 between the Ordine Nuovo con- 
ception of factory councils as organs of the entire working class (including those 
not organised in the socialist party or in trade unions) and the majority opinion 
in the PSI which was horrified at this notion. The Ordine Nuovo group would 
certainly have applied similar criteria to the formation of other forms of council, 
such as the territorial "soviet" mentioned here. 

18 Claudio Treves (1 869-1933) was together with Turati the main leader of 
the reformist wing of the PSI, and, after their expulsion in 1922, of the reformist 
PSUI, until he went into exile in 1926. On 30 March 1920 he made what became 
known as his "expiation" speech, in which he described the tragic situation, the 
expiation, of the ruling classes in a situation in which the bourgeoisie was powerless 
to carry on effectively, while the proletariat was not yet ready to exercise power. 

19 In Italian che fanno le mosche cocchiere, an allusion to La Fontaine's fable Le 
Cocke et la Mouche, which recounts the story ofaflywho thinks that it is due to 
his efforts that a coach drawn by six horses succeeds in ascending a steep hill; 
the poem ends: "Ainsi certaines gens, faisant les empresses, S'introduisent dans 
les affaires: lis font partout les necessaires, Et, partout importuns, devraient 
etre chasses." 


and the belief that a civilised country cannot "allow" certain 
violences to take place. 

These generalities too were masks for other, deeper motives 
(besides, they were in contradiction with what was repeated each 
time a massacre occurred: We have always said, for our part, 
that the ruling class is reactionary!), whose core once again was 
the fact of separation from the class, i.e. the existence of "two 
classes". There was a failure to grasp what would happen if reaction 
triumphed, because the real struggle was not lived — only the struggle 
as a doctrinal "principle". A further contradiction with respect to 
voluntarism: if one is against voluntarism, one ought to appreciate 
"spontaneity". But in fact the opposite was the case: what was 
"spontaneous" was inferior, not worth considering, not even worth 
analysing. In reality, the "spontaneous" was the most crushing 
proof of the party's ineptitude, because it demonstrated the gulf 
between the fine-sounding programmes and the wretched deeds. 
But in the meantime the "spontaneous" events occurred (1919-20), 
damaged interests, disturbed settled positions, aroused terrible 
hatreds even among peaceful folk, brought out of their passivity 
social strata which had been stagnating in putridity. 20 They 
created, precisely because of their "spontaneity" and because they 
were disavowed, the generic "panic", the "great fear" which 
could not fail to unify the forces of repression which would crush 
them without pity. 

The so-called pact of alliance between Confederation and Party, 41 

,0 In other words, the "spontaneous" activity of the Italian working class and 
peasantry in 19 19 20 provoked a back lash among the traditionally "apolitical" 
petit-bourgeois strata. Gramsci analyses this apoliticism elsewhere (PP, pp. 11-12). 
See too PP, p. 54, where he wrote: "Treves' 'expiation' speech and the obsession 
with interventionism are closely linked : what is involved is a policy of avoiding 
the basic problem, the problem of power, and of diverting the attention and the 
passions of the masses on to secondary objectives; of hypocritically concealing the 
historical and political responsibility of the ruling class, channelling popular 
anger against material and often unconscious instruments of ruling-class policies ; 
in essence, this policy was a continuation of that of Giolitti. ... It was obvious 
that the war, with the immense economic and psychological upheaval which it 
had brought about especially among the petty intellectuals and the petits 
bourgeois was going to radicalise these strata. The party turned them 
gratuitously into enemies, instead of making allies of them, i.e. it threw them 
back towards the ruling class." (The party alluded to is, of course, the PSI — the 
PCI was not founded until 1921 and the obsession with interventionism to 
which Gramsci refers was the tendency of the socialists in the post-war period 
to use as the basic criterion for all political judgements the stance taken up in 
1 9 14-15 on the question of Italian intervention in the war.) 

21 i.e. the agreement of 29 September 1918, whereby the PSI and the CGL 
denned their respective fields of activity: e.g. the party would direct all political 
strikes, the CGL all economic ones "without obstructing each other". 



which can be compared to a concordat between State and Church, 
constitutes an exceptional document of this gulf between represented 
and representatives. The party, which is an embyronic State structure, 
can allow no division of its political powers. It cannot permit a part 
of its members to claim rights equal to its own, to pose as allies of 
the "whole" — just as a State cannot allow a part of its subjects to 
make (via a foreign power) a special contract, over and above the 
general laws, governing their relations with it, i.e. with the very 
State to which they belong. To admit such a situation would imply 
the subordination de facto and dejure of the State and of the party 
to the so-called majority of the represented: in reality, to a group 
which poses itself as anti-State and anti-party and which ends up 
by indirectly exercising power. In the case of the pact of alliance 
it was clear that power did not lie with the party. 

The curious relations obtaining between party and parliamentary 
group likewise corresponded to the pact of alliance ; these too took 
the form of an alliance with equal rights. This system of relations 
meant that the party had no concrete existence as an independent 
organism, but merely as one constitutive element of a more complex 
organism, which had all the characteristics of a labour party — 
without a centre, without any unitary will, etc. Must the unions 
therefore be subordinated to the party? This is not the right way 
to pose the question. The problem must be posed in the following 
terms: every member of the party, whatever his position or his 
responsibilities, is still a member of the party and subordinate to 
its leadership. There cannot be subordination between union and 
party : if the union has spontaneously chosen as its leader a member 
of the party, that means that the union freely accepts the directives 
of the party, hence freely accepts (indeed desires) control by the 
party over its officials. This problem was not posed correctly in 
1919, although there existed a great and instructive precedent, that 
of June 19 14. 22 For in reality, the fractions had no policy, and 
hence neither did the party. [1930] 

" In June 1914, after the massacre of workers at Ancona (see note 33 on p. 70), 
the General Strike called by the PSI was briefly and reluctantly supported, and 
subsequently sabotaged, by the CGL. Gramsci points out that, despite this, the 
PSI in 191 9 had not learnt its lesson with reference to the CGL. In August 1920, 
on the eve of the factory occupations, Gramsci had in fact written in Online 
Nuovo: "Today ... at a moment when the revolutionary period may impel the 
Party into action from one moment to the next, the Italian movement is in a 
situation where not only it has not resolved in practice the problem of the relations 
between party and trade union, but it has not even raised the question. The 
Italian proletarian movement is the field of activity of two political parties : the 
official one and the de facto one constituted by the trade-union leaders." 




The weakness of the Italian political parties (excepting to some 
extent the Nationalist party) throughout their period of activity, 
from the Risorgimento onwards, has consisted in what one might 
call an imbalance between agitation and propaganda — though it 
can also be termed lack of principle, opportunism, absence of 
organic continuity, imbalance between tactics and strategy, etc. 
The principal reason why the parties are like this is to be sought in 
the deliquescence of the economic classes, in the gelatinous economic 
and social structure of the country — but this explanation is some- 
what fatalistic. In fact, if it is true that parties are only the 
nomenclature for classes, it is also true that parties are not simply a 
mechanical and passive expression of those classes, but react 
energetically upon them in order to develop, solidify and uni- 
versalise them. This precisely did not occur in Italy, and the result 
of this "omission" is precisely the imbalance between agitation 
and propaganda — or however else one wishes to term it. 

The State/government has a certain responsibility in this state 
of affairs: one can call it a responsibility, in so far as it prevented 
the strengthening of the State itself, i.e. demonstrated that the 
State/government was not a national factor. The government in 
fact operated as a "party". It set itself over and above the parties, 
not so as to harmonise their interests and activities within the 
permanent framework of the life and interests of the nation and 
State, but so as to disintegrate them, to detach them from the 
broad masses and obtain "a force of non-party men linked to the 
government by paternalistic ties of a Bonapartist-Caesarist type". 
This is the way in which the so-called dictatorships of Depretis, 
Crispi and Giolitti, and the parliamentary phenomenon of trans- 
formism, 23 should be analysed. Classes produce parties, and parties 
form the personnel of State and government, the leaders of civil 
and political society. There must be a useful and fruitful relation 
in these manifestations and functions. There cannot be any forma- 
tion of leaders without the theoretical, doctrinal activity of parties, 

83 For "trasformismo", see note 8 on p. 58; for Crispi, note 24 on p. 66; for 
Giolitti, note 68 on p. 94. Agostino Depretis (1813-87) was at first a Mazzinian; 
later, in Sicily with Garibaldi, he was in fact working for Cavour. In 1876 he 
became the first "Left" prime minister, and dominated parliamentary life until 
his death. He chose his ministers from both sides of the parliament, in the process 
which became known as transf ormism ; Crispi called this means of securing his 
personal power a "parliamentary dictatorship", but did the same himself when 
in power. 



without a systematic attempt to discover and study the causes 
which govern the nature of the class represented and the way in 
which it has developed. Hence, scarcity of State and government 
personnel; squalor of parliamentary life; ease with which the 
parties can be disintegrated, by corruption and absorption of the 
few individuals who are indispensable. Hence, squalor of cultural 
life and wretched inadequacy of high culture. Instead of political 
history, bloodless erudition; instead of religion, superstitition ; 
instead of books and great reviews, daily papers and broadsheets ; 
instead of serious politics, ephemeral quarrels and personal clashes. 
The universities, and all the institutions which develop intellectual 
and technical abilities, since they were not permeated by the life 
of the parties, by the living realities of national life, produced 
apolitical national cadres, with a purely rhetorical and non- 
national mental formation. Thus the bureaucracy became estranged 
from the country, and via its administrative positions became a true 
political party, the worst of all, because the bureaucratic hierarchy 
replaced the intellectual and political hierarchy. The bureaucracy 
became precisely the State/Bonapartist party.* [1930] 


The discussion on force and consent has shown that political science 
is relatively advanced in Italy, and is treated with a certain frank- 
ness of expression — even by individuals holding responsible positions 
in the State. The discussion in question is the debate about the 
"philosophy of the epoch", about the central theme in the lives of 
the various states in the post-war period. How to reconstruct the 
hegemonic apparatus of the ruling group, an apparatus which 
disintegrated as a result of the war, in every state throughout the 
world? Moreover, why did this apparatus disintegrate? Perhaps 
because a strong antagonistic 24 collective political will developed ? 
If this were the case, the question would have been resolved in 
favour of such an antagonist. In reality, it disintegrated under the 
impact of purely mechanical causes, of various kinds: 1. because 
great masses, previously passive, entered into movement — but into 

* See the books which after 191 9 criticised a "similar" state of affairs (but 
far richer in terms of the life of "civil society") in the Kaiser's Germany, for 
example Max Weber's book Parliament and Government in the German New Order: 
a Political Critique of Bureaucracy and Party Life. Translation and preface by Enrico 
Ruta, pp. xvi, 200 the translation is very imperfect and imprecise. 

84 i.e. antagonistic to the existing capitalist and bourgeois order. 



a chaotic and disorganised movement, without leadership, i.e. 
without any precise collective political will; 2. because the middle 
classes, who during the war held positions of command and 
responsibility, when peace came were deprived of these and left 
unemployed — precisely after having learned how to command, etc. ; 
3. because the antagonistic forces proved to be incapable of 
organising this situation of disorder to their own advantage. The 
problem was to reconstruct a hegemonic apparatus for these 
formerly passive and apolitical elements. It was impossible to 
achieve this without the use of force — which could not be "legal" 
force, etc. Since the complex of social relations was different in 
each state, the political methods of using force and the ways in 
which legal and illegal forces were combined had to be equally 
diverse. The greater the mass of the apolitical, the greater the part 
played by illegal forces has to be. The greater the politically 
organised and educated forces, the more it is necessary to "cover" 
the legal State, etc. [1930-32] 


In military war, when the strategic aim — destruction of the enemy's 
army and occupation of his territory — is achieved, peace comes. It 
should also be observed that for war to come to an end, it is enough 
that the strategic aim should simply be achieved potentially: it is 
enough in other words that there should be no doubt that an army 
is no longer able to fight, and that the victorious army "could" 
occupy the enemy's territory. Political struggle is enormously more 
complex: in a certain sense, it can be compared to colonial wars 
or to old wars of conquest — in which the victorious army occupies, 
or proposes to occupy, permanendy all or a part of the conquered 
territory. Then the defeated army is disarmed and dispersed, but 
the struggle continues on the terrain of politics and of military 

Thus India's political struggle against the English (and to a 
certain extent that of Germany against France, or of Hungary 
against the Little Entente) knows three forms of war: war of 
movement, war of position, and underground warfare. Gandhi's 
passive resistance is a war of position, which at certain moments 
becomes a war of movement, and at others underground warfare. 
Boycotts are a form of war of position, strikes of war of movement, 
the secret preparation of weapons and combat troops belongs to 


gramsci: prison notebooks 

underground warfare. A kind of commando tactics 25 is also to be 
found, but it can only be utilised with great circumspection. If 
the English believed that a great insurrectional movement was 
being prepared, destined to annihilate their present strategic 
superiority (which consists, in a certain sense, in their ability to 
manoeuvre through control of the internal lines of communication, 
and to concentrate their forces at the "sporadically" most dangerous 
spot) by mass suffocation — i.e. by compelling them to spread out 
their forces over a theatre of war which had simultaneously become 
generalised — then it would suit them to provoke a premature out- 
break of the Indian fighting forces, in order to identify them and 
decapitate the general movement. Similarly it would suit France 
if the German Nationalist Right were to be involved in an 
adventurist coup d'itat; for this would oblige the suspected illegal 
military organisation to show itself prematurely, and so permit an 
intervention which from the French point of view would be timely. 
It is thus evident that in these forms of mixed struggle — funda- 
mentally of a military character, but mainly fought on the political 
plane (though in fact every political struggle always has a military 
substratum) — the use of commando squads requires an original 
tactical development, for which the experience of war can only 
provide a stimulus, and not a model. 

The question of the Balkan comitadjis 29 requires separate treat- 

** "Ardilis o." During the First World War, the "arditi" were volunteer 
commando squads in the Italian army. The term was adopted by d'Annunzio 
for his nationalist volunteer "legions", and was also used by the "arditi del popolo", 
formed to combat the fascist squads in the summer of 192 1. This latter organisa- 
tion emerged outside the left parties, but the mass of its local leaders and members 
were communist or socialist. The PSI (who signed a "concilation pact" with the 
fa cists at this time) condemned the organisation; they advocated a policy of 
non-resistance. The PCI also condemned the organisation, for sectarian reasons, 
preferring to concentrate on its own, purely communist, defence squads. Gramsci 
had written and published articles welcoming the organisation before the official 
condemnation, and even afterwards did so obliquely, by critici ing the PSI's 
attitude. However, as his comments later in this note indicate, he did not feel 
that working-class "arditi" could in fact hope to stand up to the fascist squads, 
who enjoyed the connivance of the State. It was only mass as opposed to volunteer 
action which could provide a viable response. 

,s In the late nineteenth century, Turkey still occupied large parts of the 
Balkans what are now Albania, Northern Greece, Southern Yugoslavia and 
Southern Bulgaria — including the whole of the area traditionally known as 
Macedonia (now divided between Yugoslavia, Greece and to a lesser extent 
Bulgaria). In 1893 a revolutionary Macedonian committee was set up in Sophia 
by the Macedonian nationalists Delcev and Gruev, and this committee began 
to send armed bands (comitadjis) across the border into Turkish territory. Their 
aim — strongly opposed by the Young Turks — was at least some measure of 
Macedonian autonomy. All the surrounding countries — Bulgaria, Serbia and 


ment; they are related to particular conditions of the region's 
geophysical environment, to the particular formation of the rural 
classes, and also to the real effectiveness of the governments there. 
The same is true with the Irish bands, 27 whose form of warfare and 
of organisation was related to the structure of Irish society. The 
comitadjis, the Irish, and the other forms of partisan warfare have 
to be separated from the question of commandos, although they 
appear to have points of contact. These forms of struggle are specific 
to weak, but restive, minorities confronted by well-organised 
majorities: modern commandos on the contrary presuppose a 
large reserve-force, immobilised for one reason or another but 
potentially effective, which gives them support and sustenance in 
the form of individual contributions. 

The relationship which existed in ig 17-18 between the com- 
mando units and the army as a whole can lead, and has led, political 
leaders to draw up erroneous plans of campaign. They forget: 
1. that the commandos are simple tactical units, and do indeed 
presuppose an army which is not very effective — but not one which 
is completely inert. For even though discipline and fighting spirit 
have slackened to the point where a new tactical deployment has 
become advisable, they still do exist to a certain degree — a degree 
to which the new tactical formation precisely corresponds. Other- 
wise there could only be rout, and headlong flight; 2. that the 
phenomenon of commandos should not be considered as a sign of 
the general combativity of the mass of the troops, but, on the 
contrary, as a sign of their passivity and relative demoralisation. 
But in saying all this, the general criterion should be kept in mind 
that comparisons between military art and politics, if made, should 
always be taken cum grano salts [with a pinch of salt] — in other 
words, as stimuli to thought, or as terms in a reductio ad absurdum. 
In actual fact, in the case of the political militia there is neither 
any implacable penal sanction for whoever makes a mistake or does 
not obey an order exactly, nor do courts-martial exist — quite 
apart from the fact that the line-up of political forces is not even 
remotely comparable to the line-up of military forces. 

In political struggle, there also exist other forms of warfare — 
apart from the war of movement and siege warfare or the war of 

Greece — formed their own armed bands (cete) in the yean that followed (as did 
the Vlachs), to protect their own interests in the area. These bands fought each 
other at the same time as they fought the Turks. 

27 Presumably a reference to the Fenian bands, who rose against British rule 
unsuccessfully in 1867 and continued sporadic activity during the latter years 
of the century. 



position. True, i.e. modern, commandos belong to the war of posi- 
tion, in its 1914-18 form. The war of movement and siege warfare 
of the preceding periods also had their commandos, in a certain 
sense. The light and heavy cavalry, crack rifle corps, 28 etc. — and 
indeed mobile forces in general — partly functioned as commandos. 
Similarly the art of organising patrols contained the germ of modern 
commandos. This germ was contained in siege warfare more than 
in the war of movement: more extensive use of patrols, and par- 
ticularly the art of organising sudden sorties and surprise attacks 
with picked men. 

Another point to be kept in mind is that in political struggle one 
should not ape the methods of the ruling classes, or one will fall 
into easy ambushes. In the current struggles this phenomenon 
often occurs. A weakened State structure is like a flagging army; 
the commandos — i.e. the private armed organisations — enter the 
fi eld, and they have two tasks : to make use of illegal means, while 
the State appears to remain within legality, and thus to reorganise 
the State itself. It is stupid to believe that when one is confronted 
by illegal private action one can counterpose to it another similar 
action — in other words, combat commando tactics by means of 
commando tactics. It means believing that the State remains 
perpetually inert, which is never the case — quite apart from all the 
other conditions which differ. The class factor leads to a funda- 
mental difference: a class which has to work fixed hours every day 
cannot have permanent and specialised assault organisations — as 
can a class which has ample financial resources and all of whose 
members are not tied down by fixed work. At any hour of day or 
night, these by now professional organisations are able to strike 
decisive blows, and strike them unawares. Commando tactics cannot 
therefore have the same importance for some classes as for others. 
For certain classes a war of movement and manoeuvre is necessary — 
because it is the form of war which belongs to them; and this, in 
the case of political struggle, may include a valuable and perhaps 
indispensable use of commando tactics. But to fix one's mind on the 
military model is the mark of a fool: politics, here too, must have 
priority over its military aspect, and only politics creates the 
possibility for manoeuvre and movement. 

From all that has been said it follows that in the phenomenon 
of military commandos, it is necessary to distinguish between the 
technical function of commandos as a special force linked to the 

18 "Bersaglieri" an elite corps of the Italian army, founded by Lamarmora 
in 1B36. 



modern war of position, and their politico-military function. As a 
special force commandos were used by all armies in the World 
War. But they have only had a politico-military function in those 
countries which are politically enfeebled and non-homogeneous, and 
which are therefore represented by a not very combative national 
army, and a bureaucratised General Staff, grown rusty in the 
service. [ 1 929-30] 

On the subject of parallels between on the one hand the concepts 
of war of manoeuvre and war of position in military science, and 
on the other the corresponding concepts in political science, Rosa 
[Luxemburg] 's little book, translated (from French) into Italian 
in 1 919 by C. Alessandri, should be recalled. 29 

In this book, Rosa — a little hastily, and rather superficially too — 
theorised the historical experiences of 1905. She in fact disregarded 
the "voluntary" and organisational elements which were far more 
extensive and important in those events than — thanks to a certain 
"economistic" and spontaneist prejudice — she tended to believe. 
All the same, this little book (like others of the same author's 
essays) is one of the most significant documents theorizing the war 
of manoeuvre in relation to political science. The immediate 
economic element (crises, etc.) is seen as the field artillery which 
in war opens a breach in the enemy's defences — a breach sufficient 
for one's own troops to rush in and obtain a definitive (strategic) 
victory, or at least an important victory in the context of the 
strategic line. Naturally the effects of immediate economic factors 
in historical science are held to be far more complex than the 
effects of heavy artillery in a war of manoeuvre, since they are 
conceived of as having a double effect: 1. they breach the enemy's 
defences, after throwing him into disarray and causing him to lose 
faith in himself, his forces, and his future; 2. in a flash they organise 
one's own troops and create the necessary cadres — or at least in a 
flash they put the existing cadres (formed, until that moment, by 
the general historical process) in positions which enable them to 
encadre one's scattered forces; 3. in a flash they bring about the 
necessary ideological concentration on the common objective to be 
achieved. This view was a form of iron economic determinism, with 
the aggravating factor that it was conceived of as operating with 
lightning speed in time and in space. It was thus out and out 
historical mysticism, the awaiting of a sort of miraculous 

28 Rosa Luxemburg: The General Strike — the party and the unions. The Italian 
edition was published by Societa Eiilrice "Avanti!" in Milan, 1919. 



General Krasnov asserted (in his novel) 30 that the Entente did 
not wish for the victory of Imperial Russia (for fear that the Eastern 
Question would be definitively resolved in favour of Tsarism), 
and therefore obliged the Russian General Staff to adopt trench 
warfare (absurd, in view of the enormous length of the Front from 
the Baltic to the Black Sea, with vast marshy and forest zones), 
whereas the only possible strategy was a war of manoeuvre. This 
assertion is merely silly. In actual fact, the Russian Army did 
attempt a war of manoeuvre and sudden incursion, especially in 
the Austrian sector (but also in East Prussia), and won successes 
which were as brilliant as they were ephemeral. The truth is that 
one cannot choose the form of war one wants, unless from the start 
one has a crushing superiority over the enemy. It is well known 
what losses were caused by the stubborn refusal of the General 
Staffs to recognise that a war of position was "imposed" by the 
overall relation of the forces in conflict. A war of position is not, 
in reality, constituted simply by the actual trenches, but by the 
whole organisational and industrial system of the territory which 
lies to the rear of the army in the field. It is imposed notably by 
the rapid fire-power of cannons, machine-guns and rifles, by the 
armed strength which can be concentrated at a particular spot, as 
well as by the abundance of supplies which make possible the 
swift replacement of material lost after an enemy breakthrough or 
a retreat. A further factor is the great mass of men under arms; 
they are of very unequal calibre, and are precisely only able to 
operate as a mass force. It can be seen how on the Eastern Front 
it was one thing to make an incursion in the Austrian Sector, and 
quite another in the German Sector; and how even in the Austrian 
Sector, reinforced by picked German troops and commanded by 
Germans, incursion tactics ended in disaster. The same thing 
occurred in the Polish campaign of 1920; the seemingly irresistible 
advance was halted before Warsaw by General Weygand, on the 
line commanded by French officers. 31 Even those military experts 
whose minds are now fixed on the war of position, just as they were 

,0 P. N. Krasnov, From Two-headed Eagle to Red Flag, Berlin, 1921. Italian 
edition, Florence, 1928. 

81 The Red Army under Tukhachevsky was halted at the gates of Warsaw 
in August 1920, in its counter-offensive following Pilsudski's invasion of the Soviet 
Union. The defeat was followed by controversy both concerning the viability of 
the entire attempt to "export revolution" without the support of the local popula- 
tion, and concerning the specific responsibilities for the defeat (Budyenny and 
Egorov, supported by Stalin, had not followed the orders of S. Kamenev, the 
commander-in-chief, and had marched on Lvov instead of linking up with 
Tukhachevsky before Warsaw). 


previously on that of manoeuvre, naturally do not maintain that 
the latter should be considered as expunged from military science. 
They merely maintain that, in wars among the more industrially 
and socially advanced States, the war of manoeuvre must be 
considered as reduced to more of a tactical than a strategic function; 
that it must be considered as occupying the same position as siege 
warfare used to occupy previously in relation to it. 

The same reduction must take place in the art and science of 
politics, at least in the case of the most advanced States, where 
"civil society" has become a very complex structure and one which 
is resistant to the catastrophic "incursions" of the immediate eco- 
nomic element (crises, depressions, etc.). The superstructures of 
civil society are like the trench-systems of modern warfare. In war 
it would sometimes happen that a fierce artillery attack seemed to 
have destroyed the enemy's entire defensive system, whereas in fact 
it had only destroyed the outer perimeter; and at the moment of 
their advance and attack the the assailants would find themselves 
confronted by a line of defence which was still effective. The same 
thing happens in politics, during the great economic crises. A crisis 
cannot give the attacking forces the ability to organise with lightning 
speed in time and in space ; still less can it endow them with fighting 
spirit. Similarly, the defenders are not demoralised, nor do they 
abandon their positions, even among the ruins, nor do they lose 
faith in their own strength or their own future. Of course, things 
do not remain exactly as they were; but it is certain that one will 
not find the element of speed, of accelerated time, of the definitive 
forward march expected by the strategists of political Cadornism. 82 

The last occurrence of the kind in the history of politics was the 
events of 191 7. They marked a decisive turning-point in the history 
of the art and science of politics. Hence it is a question of studying 
"in depth" which elements of civil society correspond to the 
defensive systems in a war of position. The use of the phrase "in 
depth" is intentional, because 1917 has been studied — but only 
either from superficial and banal viewpoints, as when certain social 
historians study the vagaries of women's fashions, or from a 
"rationalistic" viewpoint — in other words, with the conviction that 
certain phenomena are destroyed as soon as they are "realistically" 
explained, as if they were popular superstitions (which anyway are 
not destroyed either merely by being explained). 

The question of the meagre success achieved by new tendencies 

" See note 29 on p. 145. 



in the trade-union movement should be related to this series of 
problems. 33 One attempt to begin a revision of the current tactical 
methods was perhaps that outlined by L. Dav. Br. [Trotsky] at 
the fourth meeting, when he made a comparison between the 
Eastern and Western fronts. 34 The former had fallen at once, but 
unprecedented struggles had then ensued ; in the case of the latter, 
the struggles would take place "beforehand". The question, there- 
fore, was whether civil society resists before or after the attempt 
to seize power; where the latter takes place, etc. However, the 
question was outlined only in a brilliant, literary form, without 
directives of a practical character. [1933-34: 1st version 1930-32.] 
It should be seen whether Bronstein's famous theory about the 
permanent character of the movement 35 is not the political reflection 
of the theory of war of manoeuvre (recall the observation of the 
cossack general Krasnov) — i.e. in the last analysis, a reflection of 
the general-economic-cultural-social conditions in a country in 
which the structures of national life are embryonic and loose, and 
incapable of becoming "trench or fortress". In this case one might 

sa This is presumably a reference to the failure of communists in Italy between 
1 92 1 and ig26 to win more than a minority position within the trade-union 
movement, despite the betrayals of the CGL's reformist leaders. 

81 The "fourth meeting" is the Fourth World Congress of the Comintern, at 
which Gramsci was present. Trotsky gave the report on NEP, in the course of 
which he said: ". . . it will hardly be possible to catch the European bourgeoisie 
by surprise as we caught the Russian bourgeoisie. The European bourgeoisie is 
more intelligent, and more farsighted; it is not wasting time. Everything that 
can be set on foot against us is being mobilised by it right now. The revolutionary 
proletariat will thus encounter on its road to power not only the combat vanguards 
of the counter-revolution but also its heaviest reserves. Only by smashing, breaking 
up and demoralising these enemy forces will the proletariat be able to seize state 
power. By way of compensation, after the proletarian overturn, the vanquished 
bourgeoisie will no longer dispose of powerful reserves from which it could draw 
forces for prolonging the civil war. In other words, after the conquest of power, 
the European proletariat will in all likelihood have far more elbow room for its 
creative work in economy and culture than we had in Russia on the day after 
the overturn. The more difficult and gruelling the struggle for state power, all 
the less possible will it be to challenge the proletariat's power after the victory." 
Trotsky, The First Five Years of the Communist International, Vol. II, pp. 221-22, 
Pioneer, New York 1953. 

86 i.e. Trotsky's theory of Permanent Revolution. Paradoxically, in view of 
Gramsci's analogy here, in the military debate of 1 920-21 Trotsky was the main 
opponent of war of manoeuvre, or the tactic of the revolutionary offensive, which 
was put forward by those civil war generals who supported the idea of a "prole- 
tarian military science" Frunze, Budyenny and also Tukhachevsky. Moreover, 
he also delivered the main attack at the Third Comintern Congress on the "theory 
of the off ensive" in the political sphere ; its main supporters were the PCI (see 
General Introduction), the Left in the German party, and Bela Kun. It should 
also perhaps be noted that the reference to Foch's unified command being a 
possible military equivalent of the "united front" in politics was hardly a happy 
analogy, since Foch in fact had leanings towards Napoleonic offensive tactics. 



say that Bronstein, apparently "Western", was in fact a cosmo- 
politan — i.e. superficially national and superficially Western or 
European. Hitch [Lenin] on the other hand was profoundly national 
and profoundly European. 

Bronstein in his memoirs recalls being told that his theory had 
been proved true . . . fifteen years later, and replying to the epigram 
with another epigram. 36 In reality his theory, as such, was good 
neither fifteen years earlier nor fifteen years later. As happens to 
the obstinate, of whom Guicciardini speaks, 37 he guessed more or 
less correctly; that is to say, he was right in his more general 
practical prediction. It is as if one was to prophesy that a little 
four-year-old girl would become a mother, and when at twenty 
she did so one said: "I guessed that she would" — overlooking the 
fact, however, that when she was four years old one had tried to 
rape the girl, in the belief that she would become a mother even then. 
It seems to me that Hitch understood that a change was necessary 
from the war of manoeuvre applied victoriously in the East in 1917, 
to a war of position which was the only form possible in the West — 
where, as Krasnov observes, armies could rapidly accumulate 
endless quantities of munitions, and where the social structures were 
of themselves still capable of becoming heavily-armed fortifications. 
This is what the formula of the "United Front" 38 seems to me to 

38 In My Life, pp. 157-58, Trotsky wrote: "Writing afterward in the inexact 
and slovenly manner which is peculiar to him, Lunacharsky described my revolu- 
tionary concept as follows : 'Comrade Trotsky held in 1 905 that the two revolutions 
(the bourgeois and socialist), although they do not coincide, are bound to each 
other in such a way that they make a permanent revolution. After they have 
entered upon the revolutionary period through a bourgeois political revolution, 
the Russian section of the world, along with the rest, will not be able to escape 
from this period until the Social Revolution has been completed. It cannot be 
denied that in formulating this view Comrade Trotsky showed great insight and 
vision, albeit he erred to the extent of fifteen years.' The remark about my error 
of fifteen years does not become any more profound through its later repetition 
by Radek. All our estimates and slogans of 1905 were based on the assumption 
of a victorious revolution, and not of a defeat. We achieved then neither a republic 
nor a transfer of land, nor even an eight-hour day. Does it mean that we erred 
in putting these demands forward? The defeat of the revolution blanketed all 
prospects not merely those which I had been expounding. The question was 
not of the dates of revolution but of the analysis of its inner forces and of foreseeing 
its progress as a whole." 

87 See Ricordi, Series II, No. 1 : "He who therefore has faith becomes obstinate 
in what he believes and goes on his way intrepid and resolute, scorning difficulties 
and dangers. . . . Whence it comes to pass that, since worldly affairs are subjected 
to a thousand hazards and accidents, in the course of time there are many ways 
in which unhoped for help may come to whoever has persevered in his 
obstinacy. . .". 

88 For the united front policy, launched by the Comintern Executive in 
December 1921, see General Introduction. 


mean, and it corresponds to the conception of a single front for the 
Entente under the sole command of Foch. 

Hitch, however, did not have time to expand his formula — though 
it should be borne in mind that he could only have expanded it 
theoretically, whereas the fundamental task was a national one; 
that is to say it required a reconnaissance of the terrain and identi- 
fication of the elements of trench and fortress represented by the 
elements of civil society, etc. In Russia the State was everything, 
civil society was primordial and gelatinous; in the West, there was 
a proper relation between State and civil society, and when the 
State trembled a sturdy structure of civil society was at once 
revealed. The State was only an outer ditch, behind which there 
stood a powerful system of fortresses and earthworks: more or less 
numerous from one State to the next, it goes without saying — but 
this precisely necessitated an accurate reconnaissance of each indi- 
vidual country. 

Bronstein's theory can be compared to that of certain French 
syndicalists on the General Strike, and to Rosa [Luxemburg] 's 
theory in the work translated by Alessandri. Rosa's book and 
theories anyway influenced the French syndicalists, as is clear from 
some of Rosmer's 39 articles on Germany in Vie Ouvriere (first series 
in pamphlet form). It partly depends too on the theory of 
spontaneity. [1930-32] 


This seems to me to be the most important question of political 
theory that the post-war period has posed, and the most difficult 
to solve correctly. It is related to the problems raised by Bronstein 
[Trotsky], who in one way or another can be considered the 
political theorist of frontal attack in a period in which it only 
leads to defeats. This transition in political science is only indirectly 
(mediately) related to that which took place in the military field, 
although certainly a relation exists and an essential one. The war 
of position demands enormous sacrifices by infinite masses of people. 
So an unprecedented concentration of hegemony is necessary, and 
hence a more "interventionist" government, which will take the 

** Alfred Rosmer was a revolutionary syndicalist during the First World War, 
and edited La Vie Ouvriere together with Pierre Monatte. They were both among 
the first leaders of the PCF, and Rosmer was editor of Humanite from 1923 to 
1924. He was expelled in ig26 for supporting the Joint Opposition in the Russian 


offensive more openly against the oppositionists and organise per- 
manently the "impossibility" of internal disintegration — with con- 
trols of every kind, political, administrative, etc., reinforcement of 
the hegemonic "positions" of the dominant group, etc. All this 
indicates that we have entered a culminating phase in the political- 
historical situation, since in politics the "war of position", once 
won, is decisive definitively. In politics, in other words, the war of 
manoeuvre subsists so long as it is a question of winning positions 
which are not decisive, so that all the resources of the State's 
hegemony cannot be mobilised. But when, for one reason or another, 
these positions have lost their value and only the decisive positions 
are at stake, then one passes over to siege warfare; this is con- 
centrated, difficult, and requires exceptional qualities of patience 
and inventiveness. In politics, the siege is a reciprocal one, despite 
all appearances, and the mere fact that the ruler has to muster all 
his resources demonstrates how seriously he takes his adversary. 

"A resistance too long prolonged in a besieged camp is 
demoralising in itself. It implies suffering, fatigue, loss of rest, illness 
and the continual presence not of the acute danger which tempers 
but of the chronic danger which destroys." Karl Marx: Eastern 
Question. 14 September 1855. 


Tactic of great masses, and immediate tactic of small groups. 
Belongs to the discussion about war of position and war of move- 
ment, in so far as this is reflected in the psychology both of great 
leaders (strategists) and of iheir subordinates. It is also (if one can 
put it like that) the point of connection between strategy and 
tactics, both in politics and in military science. Individuals (even 
as components of vast masses) tend to conceive war instinctively 
as "partisan warfare" or "Garibaldine warfare" (which is a higher 
form of "partisan warfare"). In politics the error occurs as a result 
of an inaccurate understanding of what the State (in its integral 
meaning: dictatorship -f- hegemony) really is. In war a similar 
error occurs, transferred to the enemy camp (failure to understand 
not only one's own State but that of the enemy as well). In both 
cases, the error is related to individual particularism — of town or 
region; this leads to an underestimation of the adversary and his 
fighting organisation. [1930-32] 




A work (in the form of questions and answers) by Joseph Vis- 
sarionovitch [Stalin] dating from September 1927: it deals with 
certain key problems of the science and art of politics. 40 The problem 
which seems to me to need further elaboration is the following: 
how, according to the philosophy of praxis (as it manifests itself 
politically) whether as formulated by its founder [Marx] or 
particularly as restated by its most recent great theoretician [Lenin] 
— the international situation should be considered in its national 
aspect. In reality, the internal relations of any nation are the result 
of a combination which is "original" and (in a certain sense) 
unique: these relations must be understood and conceived in their 
originality and uniqueness if one wishes to dominate them and 
direct them. To be sure, the line of development is towards inter- 
nationalism, but the point of departure is "national" — and it is 
from this point of departure that one must begin. Yet the perspective 
is international and cannot be otherwise. Consequently, it is neces- 
sary to study accurately the combination of national forces which 
the international class [the proletariat] will have to lead and 
develop, in accordance with the international perspective and 
directives [i.e. those of the Comintern]. The leading class is in fact 
only such if it accurately interprets this combination — of which it 
is itself a component and precisely as such is able to give the move- 
ment a certain direction, within certain perspectives. It is on this 
point, in my opinion, that the fundamental disagreement between 
Leo Davidovitch [Trotsky] and Vissarionovitch [Stalin] as inter- 
preter of the majority movement [Bolshevism] really hinges. The 
accusations of nationalism are inept if they refer to the nucleus of 

10 This has usually been taken as a reference to Stalin's interview of September 
1927 with the first American Labour Delegation. However, that interview contains 
nothing that seems likely to have suggested to Gramsci the reflections in this note; 
moreover, it is difficult to believe that he could have had any opportunity of 
reading a text of Stalin's which appeared after his arrest. He did have, on the 
other hand, among his books before his arrest an Italian translation, in pamphlet 
form, of Stalin's June 1925 text entitled "Questions and Answers" (a speech 
given at Sverdlov University), which perhaps appeared in Italian in September. 
It seems certain that this is the text to which Gramsci is referring. In it Stalin 
notably spoke of two forms of "liquidationist" danger in the Russian Party: 
1. those who felt that there was no chance of building socialism in such a backward 
country as Russia ; 2. those who felt that the fate of the Russian Revolution was 
entirely dependent on the international revolution. Stalin went on to speak of a 
"nationalist" danger caused by the pressure of the bourgeoisie in the field of 
foreign policy, and by lack of confidence in the international proletarian revolution, 
on the part of "the people who are handling our foreign policy". 


the question. If one studies the majoritarians' [Bolsheviks'] struggle 
from 190Q up to 19 1 7, one can see that its originality consisted in 
purging internationalism of every vague and purely ideological 
(in a pejorative sense) element, to give it a realistic political content. 
It is in the concept of hegemony that those exigencies which are 
national in character are knotted together; one can well understand 
how certain tendencies either do not mention such a concept, or 
merely skim over it. A class that is international in character has — 
in as much as it guides social strata which are narrowly national 
(intellectuals), and indeed frequently even less than national: 
particularistic and municipalistic (the peasants) — to "nationalise" 
itself in a certain sense. Moreover, this sense is not a very narrow 
one either, since before the conditions can be created for an economy 
that follows a world plan, it is necessary to pass through, multiple 
phases in which the regional combinations (of groups of nations) 
may be of various kinds. Furthermore, it must never be forgotten 
that historical development follows the laws of necessity until the 
initiative has decisively passed over to those forces which tend 
towards construction in accordance with a plan of peaceful and 
solidary division of labour [i.e. to the socialist forces]. That non- 
national concepts (i.e. ones that cannot be referred to each individual 
country) are erroneous can be seen ab absurdo: they have led to 
passivity and inertia in two quite distinct phases: i. in the first 
phase, nobody believed that they ought to make a start — that is 
to say, they believed that by making a start they would find them- 
selves isolated; they waited for everybody to move together, and 
nobody in the meantime moved or organised the movement; 
2. the second phase is perhaps worse, because what is being awaited 
is an anachronistic and anti-natural form of "Napoleonism" (since 
not all historical phases repeat themselves in the same form). 41 
The theoretical weaknesses of this modem form of the old mech- 
anicism are masked by the general theory of permanent revolution, 
which is nothing but a generic forecast presented as a dogma, and 
which demolishes itself by not in fact coming true. [1933] 

41 The first phase to which Gramsci refers is clearly that of the pre-war Second 
International. The second is presumably a reference to the internationalism 
increasingly invoked by Trotsky after 1924, and against the notion of Socialism 
in One Country; Gramsci is arguing that this implies an expectation of the 
revolution spreading out from Russia in the way that Napoleon s armies carried 
certain of the ideas and achievements of the French Revolution outside the 
borders of France and throughout Europe. 



problem of the "collective man" or of "social 
conformism" 42 

Educative and formative role of the State. Its aim is always that 
of creating new and higher types of civilisation; of adapting the 
"civilisation" and the morality of the broadest popular masses to 
the necessities of the continuous development of the economic 
apparatus of production; hence of evolving even physically new 
types of humanity. But how will each single individual succeed in 
incorporating himself into the collective man, and how will educa- 
tive pressure be applied to single individuals so as to obtain their 
consent and their collaboration, turning necessity and coercion into 
"freedom"? Question of the "Law": this concept will have to be 
extended to include those activities which are at present classified 
as "legally neutral", and which belong to the domain of civil 
society; the latter operates without "sanctions" or compulsory 
"obligations", but nevertheless exerts a collective pressure and 
obtains objective results in the form of an evolution of customs, 
ways of thinking and acting, morality, etc. 

Political concept of the so-called "Permanent Revolution", which 
emerged before 1848 as a scientifically evolved expression of the 

" See too NM. pp. 150-51 : "Tendency to conformism in the contemporary 
world, more widespread and deeper than in the past: the standardisation of 
thought and action assumes national or even continental proportions. The 
economic basis of the 'collective man' : big factories, Taylorisation, rationalisation, 
etc. . . . On social 'conformism', it should be stressed that the problem is not a 
new one, and that the alarm expressed by certain intellectuals is merely comic. 
Conformism has always existed: what is involved today is a struggle between 
'two conformisms', i.e. a struggle for hegemony, a crisis of civil society. The old 
intellectual and moral leaders of society feel the ground slipping from under their 
feet; they perceive that their 'sermons' have become precisely mere 'sermons', 
i.e. external to reality, pure form without any content, shades without a spirit. 
This is the reason for their reactionary and conservative tendencies; for the 
particular form of civilisation, culture and morality which they represented is 
decomposing, and they loudly proclaim the death of all civilisation, all culture, 
all morality; they call for repressive measures by the State, and constitute resistance 
groups cut off from the real historical process, thus prolonging the crisis, since the 
eclipse of a way of living and thinking cannot take place without a crisis. The 
representatives of the new order in gestation, on the other hand, inspired by 
'rationalistic' hatred for the old, propagate Utopias and fanciful schemes. What 
is the point of reference for the new world in gestation? The world of production ; 
work. The greatest utilitarianism must go to found any analysis of the moral and 
intellectual institutions to be created and of the principles to be propagated. 
Collective and individual life must be organised with a view to the maximum 
yield of the productive apparatus. The development of economic forces on new 
bases and the progressive installation of the new structure will heal the contra- 
dictions which cannot fail to exist, and, when they have created a new 'con- 
formism' from below, will permit new possibilities for self-discipline, i.e. for 
freedom, including that of the individual." 


Jacobin experience from 1 789 to Thermidor. 43 The formula belongs 
to an historical period in which the great mass political parties and 
the great economic trade unions did not yet exist, and society was 
still, so to speak, in a state of fluidity from many points of view: 
greater backwardness of the countryside, and almost complete 
monopoly of political and State power by a few cities or even by a 
single one (Paris in the case of France) ; a relatively rudimentary 
State apparatus, and greater autonomy of civil society from State 
activity; a specific system of military forces and of national armed 
services; greater autonomy of the national economies from the 
economic relations of the world market, etc. In the period after 
1870, with the colonial expansion of Europe, all these elements 
change: the internal and international organisational relations of 
the State become more complex and massive, and the Forty- 
Eightist formula of the "Permanent Revolution" is expanded and 
transcended in political science by the formula of "civil hegemony". 
The same thing happens in the art of politics as happens in military 
art: war of movement increasingly becomes war of position, and it 
can be said that a State will win a war in so far as it prepares for 
it minutely and technically in peacetime. The massive structures 
of the modern democracies, both as State organisations, and as 
complexes of associations in civil society, constitute for the art of 
politics as it were the "trenches" and the permanent fortifications 
of the front in the war of position: they render merely "partial" 
the element of movement which before used to be "the whole" of 
war, etc. 

This question is posed for the modern States, but not for back- 
ward countries or for colonies, where forms which elsewhere have 
been superseded and have become anachronistic are still in vigour. 
The question of the value of ideologies must also be studied in a 
treatise of political science. [1933-34] 


The rise of sociology is related to the decline of the concept of 
political science and the art of politics which took place in the 
nineteenth century (to be more accurate, in the second half of that 
century, with the success of evolutionary and positivist theories). 
Everything that is of real importance in sociology is nothing other 
than political science. "Politics" became synonymous with parlia- 

See note 49 on p. 80. 



mentary politics or the politics of personal cliques. Conviction that 
the constitutions and parliaments had initiated an epoch of 
"natural" "evolution", that society had discovered its definitive, 
because rational, foundations, etc. And, lo and behold, society can 
now be studied with the methods of the natural sciences! 
Impoverishment of the concept of the State which ensued from 
such views. If political science means science of the State, and the 
State is the entire complex of practical and theoretical activities 
with which the ruling class not only justifies and maintains its 
dominance, but manages to win the active consent of those over 
whom it rules, then it is obvious that all the essential questions of 
sociology are nothing other than the questions of political science. 
If there is a residue, this can only be made up of false problems, 
i.e. frivolous problems. The question therefore which faced Bukharin 
when he wrote his Popular Manual 4,4, was that of determining what 
status could be accorded to political science in relation to the 
philosophy of praxis: whether the two are identical (something 
impossible to maintain, except from the most crudely positivist 
viewpoint) ; or whether political science is the body of empirical 
or practical principles which are deduced from a vaster conception 
of the world or philosophy properly speaking; or whether this 
philosophy is only the science of the concepts or general categories 
created by political science, etc. 

If it is true that man cannot be conceived of except as historically 
determined man — i.e. man who has developed, and who lives, in 
certain conditions, in a particular social complex or totality of 
social relations — is it then possible to take sociology as meaning 
simply the study of these conditions and the laws which regulate 
their development? Since the will and initiative of men themselves 
cannot be left out of account, this notion must be false. The problem 
of what "science" itself is has to be posed. Is not science itself 
"political activity" and political thought, in as much as it trans- 
forms men, and makes them different from what they were before ? 
If everything is "politics", then it is necessary — in order to avoid 
lapsing into a wearisome and tautological catalogue of platitudes — 
to distinguish by means of new concepts between on the one hand 
the politics which corresponds to that science which is traditionally 
called "philosophy", and on the other the politics which is 
called political science in the strict sense. If science is the "dis- 
covery" of formerly unknown reality, is this reality not conceived 

See note 63 on p. 419. 



of in a certain sense as transcendent? And is it not thought that 
there still exists something "unknown" and hence transcendent? 
And does the concept of science as "creation" not then mean that 
it too is "politics"? Everything depends on seeing whether the 
creation involved is "arbitrary", or whether it is rational — i.e. 
"useful" to men in that it enlarges their concept of life, and raises 
to a higher level (develops) life itself.* 


The separation of powers, 46 together with all the discussion pro- 
voked by its realisation and the legal dogmas which its appearance 
brought into being, is a product of the struggle between civil society 
and political society in a specific historical period. This period is 
characterised by a certain unstable equilibrium between the classes, 
which is a result of the fact that certain categories of intellectuals 
(in the direct service of the State, especially the civil and military 
bureaucracy) are still too closely tied to the old dominant classes. 
In other words, there takes place within the society what Croce 
calls the "perpetual conflict between Church and State", in which 
the Church is taken as representing the totality of civil society 
(whereas in fact it is only an element of diminishing importance 
within it), and the State as representing every attempt to crystallise 
permanently a particular stage of development, a particular 
situation. In this sense, the Church itself may become State, and 
the conflict may occur between on the one hand secular (and 
secularising) civil society, and on the other State/Church (when 
the Church has become an integral part of the State, of political 
society monopolised by a specific privileged group, which absorbs 
the Church in order the better to preserve its monopoly with the 
support of that zone of "civil society" which the Church represents). 

Essential importance of the separation of powers for political and 
economic liberalism; the entire liberal ideology, with its strengths 

* In connection with the Popular Manual and its appendix Theory and Practice, 
the philosophical review by Armando Carlini {Nuova Antologia, 16 March 1933) 
should be consulted; it appears from this that the equation "Theory: practice = 
pure mathematics: applied mathematics" was formulated by an Englishman 
(Wittaker, I think). 46 

45 Sir Edmund Whittaker (1873-1956), physicist and mathematician. 

*■ The doctrine developed by Montesquieu in his Esprit des Lois on the basis 
of the contemporary bourgeois political system in England as he saw it whereby 
executive, legislative and judiciary functions are exercised independently of each 
other. The principle inspired the American Constitution and others modelled 
on it. 



and its weaknesses, can be encapsulated in the principle of the 
separation of powers, and the source of liberalism's weakness then 
becomes apparent: it is the bureaucracy — i.e. the crystallisation 0 f 
the leading personnel — which exercises coercive power, and at a 
certain point it becomes a caste. Hence the popular demand for 
making all posts elective — a demand which is extreme liberalism, 
and at the same time its dissolution (principle of the permanent 
Constituent Assembly, etc.; in Republics, the election at fixed 
intervals of the Head of State gives the illusion of satisfying this 
elementary popular demand). 

Unity of the State in the differentiation of powers: Parliament 
more closely linked to civil society; the judiciary power, between 
government and Parliament, represents the continuity of the written 
law (even against the government). Naturally all three powers are 
also organs of political hegemony, but in different degrees: 
1. Legislature; 2, Judiciary; 3. Executive. It is to be noted how 
lapses in the administration of justice make an especially disastrous 
impression on the public: the hegemonic apparatus is more sensitive 
in this sector, to which arbitrary actions on the part of the police 
and political administration may also be referred. [1930-32] 


A conception of the Law which must be an essentially innovatory 
one is not to be found, integrally, in any pre-existing doctrine (not 
even in the doctrine of the so-called positive school, and notably 
that of Ferri). 47 If every State tends to create and maintain a certain 
type of civilisation and of citizen (and hence of collective life and 
of individual relations), and to eliminate certain customs and 
attitudes and to disseminate others, then the Law will be its instru- 
ment for this purpose (together with the school system, and other 
institutions and activities). It must be developed so that it is suitable 
for such a purpose — so that it is maximally effective and productive 
of positive results. 

The conception of law will have to be freed from every residue 
of transcendentalism and from every absolute; in practice, from 
every moralistic fanaticism. However, it seems to me that one cannot 

47 Enrico Ferri (1856-1929), penologist and politician, began his political 
career as a socialist (editor of Avanti! 1900-1905), but rallied to fascism in 1922. 
He was the most prominent member of the so-called positive school of penology, 
and the founder of Italian criminology. The main idea behind his penal theories 
was the rejection of any idea of moral retribution in the punishment of crimes, 
in favour of the notion of punishment as a deterrent. 



start from the point of view that the State does not "punish" (i£ 
this term is reduced to its human significance), but only struggles 
against social "dangerousness". In reality, the State must be con- 
ceived of as an "educator", in as much as it tends precisely to 
create a new type or level of civilisation- Because one is acting 
essentially on economic forces, reorganising and developing the 
apparatus of economic production, creating a new structure, the 
conclusion must not be drawn that superstructural factors should be 
left to themselves, to develop spontaneously, to a haphazard and 
sporadic germination. The State, in this field, too, is an instrument 
of "rationalisation", of acceleration and of Taylorisation. 48 It 
operates according to a plan, urges, incites, solicits, and "punishes" ; 
for, once the conditions are created in which a certain way of life 
is "possible", then "criminal action or omission" must have a 
punitive sanction, with moral implications, and not merely be 
judged generically as "dangerous". The Law is the repressive and 
negative aspect of the entire positive, civilising activity undertaken 
by the State. The "prize-giving" 49 activities of individuals and 
groups, etc., must also be incorporated in the conception of the 
Law; praiseworthy and meritorious activity is rewarded, just as 
criminal actions are punished (and punished in original ways, 
bringing in "public opinion" as a form of sanction). 

[1933-34: 1st version 1931-32.] 


In Nuova Antologia, 16 December 1929, there is published a brief 
note by a certain M. Azzalini, La politico, scienza ed arte di Stato, 
which may be of interest as a presentation of the elements among 
which scientific schematism flounders. 

Azzalini begins by affirming that it was a "dazzling" glory on 
Machiavelli's part "to have circumscribed the ambit of politics 
within the State". What Azzalini means is not easy to grasp: he 
quotes from Chapter III of The Prince the passage: "When the 
Cardinal of Rouen said to me that the Italians understood nothing 
of war, I replied that the French understood nothing of the State", 
and on this single quotation he bases his assertion that "hence" 
for Machiavelli "politics must be understood as a science, and as 
the science of the State, and that was his glory, etc." (the term 

*' See "Americanism and Fordism" on pp. 301-fl. 
«• "premmtrici". 


"science of the State" for "politics" was it seems used, in the correct 
modern sense, only by Marsilio of Padua 50 before Machiavelli). 
Azzalini is fairly lightweight and superficial. The anecdote of the 
Cardinal of Rouen, torn from its context, means nothing. In its 
context it takes on a meaning which does not lend itself to scientific 
deductions: it was clearly just a witty epigram, a spontaneous 
retort. The Cardinal of Rouen had asserted that the Italians under- 
stood nothing of war ; in retaliation, Machiavelli replies that the 
French understand nothing of the State, because otherwise they 
would not have allowed the Pope to extend his power in Italy, 
against the interests of the French State. Machiavelli was in fact 
very far from thinking that the French understood nothing of the 
State; on the contrary he admired the manner in which the 
monarchy (Louis XI) had welded France into a unitary State, 
and he used the actions of the French State as a term of comparison 
for Italy. This conversation of his with the Cardinal of Rouen is 
"political action" and not